Alum Lani Ka'ahumanu: LGBTQ Elder Helped Found SF State Women Studies Department

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Photo of Lani Ka’ahumanu marching in Pride Parade holding shield reading "Bi-Phobia"
Lani Ka'ahumanu marches in the 1984 San Francisco Pride Parade. Photo courtesy of Lani Ka’ahumanu.

KQED (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Growing up, Ka’ahumanu always knew what was expected of her: marry a man and have kids. And she played along for a while, falling in love with the captain of the football team, marrying him at 19 and having two kids by the time she was 24. But then she met a new friend who didn't shave her legs and shared stories of the women's rights movement. It wasn’t long before Ka'ahumanu changed her honorific from Mrs. to Ms., got involved with the anti-Vietnam War movement, started collecting food for the Black Panther Breakfast Program and boycotting grapes alongside the United Farm Workers.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ka’ahumanu started crying a lot and couldn't figure out why. She had the cookie-cutter picture of a full heterosexual life, but something was missing. As hard as it was, with her husband's support, she made the difficult decision to leave him and their kids behind and move to San Francisco. She enrolled at San Francisco State University, where she helped found the women’s studies department and came out as a lesbian.