Berkeley Lab

Lab Marks LGBT Pride Month

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. As part of Pride Month, we profile employees Scott Hobbs, Rita Garcia, and Kat Wentworth.

Scott Hobbs, Principal Subcontracts Administrator, Facilities Division

Scott-Hobbs-softball_koScott Hobbs grew up in a conservative family in Florida, so he knows the difference that an accepting and inclusive community can make. After visiting San Francisco for the first time 25 years ago, Hobbs returned to Florida, gave notice at his job, and has never looked back.

“It was so clear to me that I belonged here for so many different reasons; I felt like I was always a Northern Californian,” he says. “I’m not sure why my parents gave birth to me in Coral Gables, Florida.”

Hobbs recalls the first Pride parade he attended 25 years ago after moving to San Francisco from Miami: “There was a ceremonial door frame that people were invited to walk through, symbolizing their ‘coming out,’” he says. “I don’t see that at the parade anymore, which in and of itself is a statement, perhaps that the actual coming out isn’t as big of a deal anymore given the progress that’s been made.”

Hobbs is quick to acknowledge that these things are of course still challenging for many people, especially in other parts of the country that are less liberal and accepting. Still, Hobbs notes progress even in the naming of Pride events; years ago, it was called Freedom Day. “I guess the idea back then was that you should feel free to be yourself, and now it’s evolved with the changing times to be an expression of pride,” he says.

That same sense of comfort applies to working at the Lab for Hobbs—he plays on a Lab softball team, takes part in the Lambda Alliance, and feels like he is free to share his personal life with coworkers.

These days, Hobbs doesn’t necessarily plan to attend the Pride parade, but living about four blocks from the parade route, he jokes that it’s not really a choice whether he goes or not.

“I wonder sometimes if at some point the parade will become unnecessary; I think that living where I do and finding the current political administration a great ally to the gay community, I’m often lulled into thinking that it’s not such a big deal anymore,” Hobbs says. “But I know there’s still opposition to inclusion and acceptance of the gay community in some parts. Still, it’s important to respect differing opinions, even if we don’t share them. Perhaps Pride will someday evolve into a celebration of the ways we’re all different, but still one…”

Rita Garcia, Principal Research Associate, Molecular Foundry

Rita Garcia - Molecular Foundry.

Rita Garcia considers herself “one of the lucky ones” in that she doesn’t have a particularly dramatic coming-out story—at her small, private, liberal arts college it just wasn’t a big deal.

Still, she marvels at how far social norms have changed since those days. “Since I came out in college, so much has changed,” Garcia says. “We are expecting the U.S. Supreme Court to rule by the end of June 2015 [on same-sex marriage]—it’s perfect timing to just take a moment to be proud of the progress we’ve made and of who I am.”

She sees Pride Month as a time to reconnect with friends and celebrate. The fact that the San Francisco Pride parade has gotten so big is something that Garcia is thankful for, even though she usually chooses to participate in smaller gatherings.

Garcia credits her positive experiences in part to the fact that she’s intentionally chosen to live and work in a liberal, open, and accepting area. Garcia worked at the National Institutes of Health earlier in her career, and while she says she didn’t experience prejudice at work, she did in the surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia.

But at Berkeley Lab, Garcia says her sexual orientation has never been an issue. “Since I interact with every user who comes to the Biological Nanostructures Facility in the Molecular Foundry, I meet lots of people from all over the world,” she says. “I’ve never experienced any rudeness.” Garcia meets and trains approximately 50 new people per year.

Garcia also serves as one of the Materials Science Division representatives to the Lab’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, which gives her a chance to advocate for issues she feels strongly about. “There’s not much diversity in science, but we have the opportunity to improve that by internally using more diverse hiring committees, and getting more women and minorities involved,” she says.

Kat Wentworth, Division Safety Coordinator, Lab Directorate and Operations

Kat Wentworth - Berkeley Lab OCFO

Kat Wentworth considers Pride Month an opportunity to connect to a ritual that has a celebratory and political impact. Wentworth enjoys marching in the Pride parade and gathering together with family and friends to celebrate all month long. She recalls that before she started attending the Pride parade, she’d come to San Francisco for the AIDS Dance-a-thon, an event close to her heart given that a few of her close family friends succumbed to AIDS in the 1990s.

“When I think about Pride Month, there’s always a crossover for me between the celebration and the advocacy,” Wentworth says. “Because I came of age in the late 1980s, there’s a connection for me between the AIDS epidemic and the subsequent activism around societal tolerance of the gay community.”

Wentworth was raised in Stockton, California, and her parents were active in the theater community. As an only child, she developed an extended family of aunts and uncles through her parents’ theater friends, most of whom were queer. “A lot of those uncles didn’t survive through the 90s because of AIDS,” she says. “It was very personal before I was even queer-identified, so there’s also a strong family identity for me with Pride Month.”

She added: “It means a lot to me to come up the hill to work in June and see the rainbow flag up.”

Wentworth married her partner in 2005 before there was any legal capacity for same-sex marriage, and then the couple had another “legal” wedding in 2008. Photos commemorating both events have followed Wentworth to her various offices throughout the years, and she’s always felt comfortable having them on display. “I’m in a very public role, and everyone who walks through my office has been really positive about the pictures,” she says.

“The Lab has always supported me with opportunities to keep learning and growing professionally,” says Wentworth, “But I also feel like my holistic wellness is supported here; I’ve always had really positive professional and personal interactions at the Lab.”

Wentworth’s job involves a lot of ergonomic evaluations to ensure that people feel as safe and comfortable when they leave work as when they arrive. She says she’d like to see the same approach applied to diversity and inclusion so that people feel safe and comfortable at work at all times — “there’s a lot of science that support the fact that more diverse workplaces are more productive, more creative, and that’s it is just part of a good work culture.“

-Keri Troutman

All employees are welcome to join Berkeley Lab’s Lambda Alliance, an association for LGBTQ employees and allies.  For more information, please visit the club’s website.

Comments

  1. Nancy Finkle says:

    What a well-written article! Thanks for taking a stride that strums a sincere chord, that highlights whole people, real people. I particularly appreciate the points made by Kat Wentworth (full disclosure: she’s my dear friend) near the end, about science supporting the diverse workplaces are more productive, creative. And diversity cannot have its beneficial effects if folks cannot share openly who and how they really are.

  2. Jeff Greenblatt says:

    Yes, hooray to the Lab for celebrating inclusiveness in such a public way. I’m proud to be able to share this story with my daughter, who has become a queer activist at the tender age of 13 – though she is so supported in Berkeley, it doesn’t feel like activism sometimes. Berkeley Lab is one more reason to have hope that people can increasingly feel accepted for who they are in all aspects of their lives.

  3. Laura Crosby says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article. It is such a pleasure to read about our the community of employees that work at Berkeley Lab!

  4. Andrea Mercado says:

    Thanks for this article! I love to see members from our work force celebrated for their individuality! Another reason to love working at Berkeley Lab.

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