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.