My Story: Jeanette Starpine on Finding Belonging and Celebrating Pride
This July we recognize San Diego Pride by inviting members of our campus community to share their coming out story, how their identity empowers them and ways they are involved in the LGBTQ+ community. In this issue we connected with Jeanette Starpine (they/she), director of Education, Outreach and Diversity for the NSF Center for Aerosols Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE).
For me, Pride Month is about the magic of community. Those special moments when you feel seen, loved and know deep down that you belong. Every year during Pride I reflect on the first time I felt that sense of belonging and it fills my queer, non-binary, butch heart with love.
I was in graduate school and, by the serendipitous nature of the universe, the student Queer Collective space was one floor below the chemistry lab where I worked. Despite this proximity, it took nearly half a year for me to gather the courage to enter that space. I wanted so badly to be a part of that queer world, that I knew lay just underfoot, and yet I was terrified of being rejected. When I did finally get the courage to go, I attended a Gender Identity 101 workshop. Heart pounding, so full of nerves, I knocked. A smiling face opened the door and said to me, “You are in the right place.”
The relief. The belonging. The love I felt in that moment is something I treasure still. It’s the reason I volunteer within the queer community and write pieces like this. That moment of belonging was a spark that allowed me to explore, to live my truth and to flourish. I want this for all of us.
This passion for equity and the desire for all to be free in their identity has remained with me throughout my professional career. At UC San Diego I serve as the director of Education, Outreach and Diversity for the NSF Center for Aerosols Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE). Within this role I connect our research with the next generation of scientists through outreach and hands-on research experiences while simultaneously working to make the STEM and academic environments more inclusive and welcoming to all, especially those groups who have been marginalized.
It’s been really meaningful to work with our summer undergraduate research cohorts and help them build a strong sense of community with each other that in turn supports them through the intensity of their undergraduate research program. Community support is often the thing that can get you through the toughest days. The same is true outside of the lab.
Show your Pride
This Pride season, where are you going to find community? Well, there are LOTS of options! Get out and explore. Beyond the fear there is a queer community who loves you and is ready to welcome you home with a smile.
Here’s just a few things on offer this Pride season in San Diego:
- Celebrate at She Fest (July 8): This free event celebrates San Diego’s queer women, non-binary people, and all 2SLGBTQ+ people who find community amongst these identities with live music, workshops, vendors, food and fun. She Fest is explicitly inclusive of Two-spirit, trans, intersex and non-binary people. As the co-chair for She Fest, consider this your official invitation to come celebrate Pride with me! The best way to learn more is on our Instagram page, @sdshefest.
- Walk with UC San Diego in the San Diego Pride Parade (July 15): This is your chance to put on your queerest outfit, be seen and be joyful. I felt so celebrated and supported the first time I walked in the parade.
- Kick back at the Pride Festival (July 15-16): Located in Balboa park, this is the main event! Lots of live music, vendors and community groups. You can spend the whole day (or two!) here.
- Discover the incredible queer San Diego coalitions, such as San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, Latine Coalition, and the Queer APIMEDA Coalition. These coalitions often have additional Pride week events celebrating the communities they support; check out their websites to learn more.
- Volunteer with Pride: In my opinion this is the best way to attend your first Pride. You can make friends, get involved in the community and enjoy the festivities.
Pride is a special time of year for us to come together in support of and in celebration of our queer community. I hope to see you at one of the many Pride events in San Diego this season! For those who would like to get in contact with me, you can find me on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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