Treasured Saddleback Students:
With the end of the academic year approaching, I want to take a moment to talk about Gay Pride month (June), before many of you take off.
Many of you identify as LGBTQIA. So do I. I have been together with my husband for 34 years and been legally married for the last eight of them. Like some of you, I was bullied in school and spent the first quarter century of my life in the closet, to protect myself, keep a roof over my head and keep a job. It does get better, I promise you; but I know the night seems longest when dawn is imminent.
Most of you do not identify as LGBTQIA, but you impact the lives of those who are, directly or indirectly. So please stay with me here.
First, a message to those of you who, like me, identify as LGBTQIA:
No matter what is happening somewhere in the world, elsewhere in the country, in pockets of our community, or even in your home, you are welcome here at Saddleback. You belong here. You are loved here, not merely “tolerated” or accepted “no matter” who you are. You are loved here exactly because of who you are and embraced because your differences make our learning spaces and campus more diverse, more robust, and more beautiful. When you step onto this campus, literally or through Canvas, you are safe. You can be you. You can focus on your learning and the power of education to help you achieve your goals so that you can be you in every aspect of your life. It really does get better, and it starts getting better here, at Saddleback.
Second, a message to those of you who don’t identify as LGBTQIA:
Your LGBTQIA peers need your alliance. They carry the weight of multiple unique burdens in their backpacks. Some of those burdens are obvious—like bullying, gay “jokes,” and harassment. Some are less obvious. They may need to hide their identities and operate as avatars in their own lives for fear of discrimination or losing the roof over their heads. Imagine going to work, going to school, going home every day and pretending to be someone different than who you are. They need you. I need you—to help me keep my pledge to make this campus (physically and virtually) a giant safe zone that accepts and celebrates all of us, that values our differences as much as our common values and belief in education to better our lives.
Gay Pride month is not just about parades and celebrations by LGBTQIA participants. It is about communities who show support for all who live, work and study within them, as fellow human beings, and who celebrate, not merely tolerate, the differences between us that make our community richer and more beautiful. Gay Pride is not a day or even a month. It is an ongoing pledge, and a culture, and a reflection of our humanity.
Welcome to Saddleback everyone. You all belong here, and I am honored to be supporting you, all of you, in your journeys.
Dr. Elliot Stern
President, Saddleback College