Karla Buchting: "What Pride Means to Me"
In celebration of Pride Month, Karla Buchting, assistant director of CUIMC Operations for the Department of Public Safety, reflects on what Pride has meant to her. “For me,” Karla shares, “Pride has always meant acknowledging my own self comfortability and my own self-worth in who I am as a lesbian. I'm worthy of being respected, and I shouldn't be treated differently because of who I love.”
Born in Nicaragua to a Nicaraguan father and an American mother, Karla always knew she was gay. “I was born gay,” Karla says with a smile. She first joined Barnard College in 1985 before transferring to Columbia University in 1998. Throughout her time at both institutions, Karla has always been proud of who she is. In 1994, she was interviewed for a book entitled A Matter of Justice: Lesbians and Gay Men in Law Enforcement by Robin Burke. The book focuses on the dual challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face both in the criminal justice community as well as the LGBTQ+ community. During that same year, Karla also participated in the 1994 Gay Games, representing Team NYC on its women’s flag football team—the team won gold!
Part of her reasoning for such openness is to show support to others, especially students. “It's important that, here at Columbia, our students have administrators, faculty, and people like myself in various support departments who they can feel comfortable with if they if they encounter a situation in which they might not feel comfortable talking to just anyone.”
Karla hopes ongoing conversations highlight more shared experience than divides and create more inclusive spaces. “There's nothing more harmful than ignorance,” she cautions. “Having conversations with different people show that you’re a real person and that your issues affect more than just you. Suddenly, the stories people read [about LGBTQ+ inequality] have more of a personal impact; people can no longer detach from what’s going on.”
Additionally, Karla wants to make future generations know the history behind Pride. “Pride started with the  Stonewall riots. It was several transgender women of color who started the whole riot in order to stand up and show that our community wouldn’t tolerate being mistreated by anyone anymore. While it’s great to celebrate, I also think we still need to understand that there’s still a lot of work to be done. I recently read there are about 69 countries that still consider homosexuality to be illegal; in some of those countries, you can be put to death. So, the fight still needs to be there.”
Today, Karla focuses her efforts on financially contributing to organizations that continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights. She’s also looking forward to joining CUIMC’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group and sharing it’s messages with others. “What happens a lot in academia is that [faculty and staff] assume most resource groups and activities are really created for students. Administrators and officers of the university—we sometimes overlook these types of groups because we assume it's not for us.” Karla hopes that by joining the LGBTQ+ ERG, she can help amplify the group’s message so that everybody at CUIMC understands its open for everyone.
“The pandemic reinforced tomorrow is not promised to you—you have to make the best of what is today,” Karla reflects. “People need to be less inhibited to be themselves. And that’s not limited to your sexual orientation, your gender expression, or your gender identity. Just be yourself, because you'd be surprised at how many people you will encounter who will fall in love with you when you're the real you.”