Flashes of Pride: Sokany

Carrie George

Growing up in a devout Catholic family made it difficult for Vice President of Institutional Advancement Stephen Sokany to open up about his sexuality.

“When I was in college I was pretty much in the closet and didn’t really come to terms with my sexual orientation until after I got out of college,” Sokany said.

Sokany, now 49-years-old, identifies as gay, an identity his family struggled to accept.

“I had some pretty strained relations with my parents for a while,” Sokany said. “I had had issues with my dad about the whole concept of gay marriage.”

Sokany attended a Catholic high school and a Catholic college for his undergraduate education.

Sokany and his father did not speak for a long time, Sokany said, because of his father’s strict faith.

“I refused to talk to him because he thought that the topic of gay marriage was sick,” Sokany said. “I said, ‘Well that’s your son, so I guess that’s how you feel about me.’”

After Pope Francis spoke out in support of same-sex marriage in 2016, Sokany’s father accepted his identity more willingly, just in time for Sokany’s marriage to his partner, Matt, in 2017. Sokany’s father even attended the wedding ceremony.

“It appeared to be like a light switch,” Sokany said. “Life’s too short, so I didn’t hold a grudge. I was just glad that he accepted us.”

Before her death in 2015, Sokany’s mother kept in contact with him after he came out, but the two did not often discuss his sexuality.

At his mother’s wake, Sokany recalled several of his mother’s 80-year-old friends approaching him and his fiancé to tell them, “Your mother was so glad you found one another.”

“The bottom line is that with most parents, they just want their kids to be happy and to find someone who’s going to care for them,” Sokany said. “Because she saw that in my relationship, I think she felt really good about that.”

Though Sokany does not try to hide or conceal his sexuality, he said he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve.”

“I don’t view it as my number one way of how I want to be identified,” Sokany said. “I really just want to be identified as myself. I feel pretty strongly about that.”

Despite Sokany’s preference to live quietly and not flaunt his sexuality around, he still participated in the 2916 Flashes of Pride poster series. He said he hoped his story might help others struggling to feel like they belong.

“If just how I live my life will make a difference to someone, that would be amazing,” Sokany said. “What an honor and a privilege it would be.”

His relationship and sexuality aside, Sokany wants the world to see him for his actions.

“I think all you have is your integrity and your identity,” Sokany said. “In everything that I do, I feel that I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I’m being true to myself.”

Carrie George is the is the administration and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected]