Oral History with Diana Stumpf (2022)

Special Collections at UNC Asheville
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00:01:20 - Parents / Family

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Partial Transcript:
"My dad worked in DC. But then they were reassigned to Nairobi, Kenya. So we went to Kenya when I was almost seven and we stayed in Kenya until we were almost 15. And then we left Kenya and we went to New Delhi, India. We were only there for a year though. And then my parents decided to get divorced. So my dad stayed in India, and my mom and my sister and I came back to the US"


"Yeah. All the schools we went to were actually run by the American embassy so they were an American curriculum if you will. But most of the other embassies from around the world sent their kids to our school because other embassies, they just didn't have their own school. So everybody went pretty much to the same ... Anyone who was an embassy kid, if you will, we all ended up at the same school. So yeah, it was all English. But it was a very different ... I mean, even though it was American curriculum, I would say looking back on it that it was vastly different than ... Much more cultural and much more learning about the world a lot more than I think I would've ever gotten growing up in American school. Which is why I'm so grateful because I had to have those experiences of the different cultures and religions and ethnicities. I mean just every thing. I don't feel like I would've gotten that in an American school."


"I ended up signing up for the Army... Well, my dad actually was I think pretty thrilled. I mean, he had served in the Korean War. He didn't do a career, but he understood military service and plus he got out of paying for my college so I think he was pretty thrilled. But my mom was not happy. Not happy. So my brother had already joined the Army. Well, he went to college and went into ROTC and then was in the Army. And she came from a generation where she didn't really feel like that's what women did. So she wasn't really happy about it. She said she already had one son and she didn't need me joining the military, but it was already done."

Segment Synopsis: Diana Stumpf, born on April 18th, 1970, was welcomed into the world with her twin sister in a Catholic Nun Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Due to her father's working at the State Department, they were assigned to live at a US embassy in a variety of countries, which developed Diana's cultural literacy for the first sixteen years of her life. After her parents divorced and her dad stayed in India, Diana's mom took Diana and her sister to Chapel Hill, NC to start a new life. Going into high school at the tail end of their teenage years, Diana and her sister struggled to fit into any of the typical American cliques, but ultimately graduated High School and wanted to join the Military. After some backlash from the marines on account of her being a woman, she joined the army, where she could do anything but infantry.

Keywords: Aries; Bangladesh; Catholic Nun Hospital; Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill, NC; Cultural Literacy; Deployment; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Divorce; Twin; US Embassy

00:15:58 - Identity / Intersectionality

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Partial Transcript: "They started talking about what I was going to do in the Marines because I was a woman, they started talking about things like administrative assistant or dental hygienist or things. And I said, 'What? I don't want to be an administrative assistant. Are you crazy? In the Marines? No.'"


"I mean, there were a few moments in time in my career, but for the most part, I never felt really put down by the fact that I was a woman doing it. I mean, yeah, you'd have guys that would make comments, but I guess I never let it bother me so it never really stuck with me."

Segment Synopsis: Diana applies for the Marines, but the recruiter on the other end does not budge on the idea that she cannot do anything beyond dental hygiene or administrative work because she was a woman. When she applies for the army, at that time, it seemed the only thing that she couldn't do was infantry. Ultimately, she makes it into West Point after serving for a few years and succeeds in her endeavors, 30+ years in the armed forces.

Keywords: Armed Forces; Army; Discrimination; Femininity; Inclusive Places; Marines; Military; Safe / Inclusive Spaces; West Point

00:40:53 - On Being LGBTQ

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Partial Transcript: "But I never really focused on my attraction to women. I think I was naturally drawn to women. I didn't have a lot of guy friends, even though I'm more boyish than girly. But I really got more thinking about it because I somehow stumbled across ... There was this very small martial arts school that was in this totally scary rundown part of Durham. And it was run by two women who were both women black belts. And I understood it at the time, but they were together, but I didn't get that at the time. I just thought they were good friends, teaching martial arts. And they only had women in their school, which I loved because I just ... Not because I was attracted to the women, but because it's such a different experience when you can learn especially a physical sport like martial arts and you don't have that macho manly thing going around."


"It was funny. It never really occurred to me. I mean, I think I knew in some level that some of these other women were gay. I was totally madly in love with one of my teachers. I didn't know. I thought she was just the greatest thing that ever lived because she was so cool and tough and she could beat the crap out of me. I used to ... [background laughter] if she asked for someone I'd always raise ... Oh, me, oh me. Get my butt beat. But I thought that was the greatest thing ever. I had no idea really what I was really thinking about."

Segment Synopsis: At High Point basic training, she found herself around essentially all women and was naturally drawn to them, though she never really focused on her attraction. When she started Martial Arts Training under two women who were Black Belts, she felt that it was so much better to learn about physical sports in a room that was not defined as a manly or macho thing going on. She still looks up to them today as very strong women, and still even keeps in touch with them.

Keywords: Crushes; Feminism; LGBTQ+; Martial Arts; New Ideas About Sexuality; Physical Sport; Sexuality

00:48:57 - Coming Out / Early Experiences

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Partial Transcript: "I might have been in the Army for a year. And I remember I went to stay at her house just for the night to hang out. And I remember I had been telling myself all day that I was going to tell her and I was going to tell her, I was going to tell her, I was going to tell her. I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it. And I kept saying, 'I have to tell you something, but I can't tell you something.' She would just be like, 'What is going on with you?' And then she said, 'Are you dying? Do you have a terminal illness or something? Is that what you're trying to tell me?' And I'm like, 'No. No, I'm just trying to tell you that I'm gay.' And she's like, 'Oh. Oh. I already knew that. What?' She said, 'I already knew that.' So it was just funny because ... She wasn't gay, but she didn't have any problem. She's like, 'Well I already knew that.' And I had been spending the whole day trying to build up the courage to tell her."

Segment Synopsis: Diana came out to one of her close friends who she later realized that she had a crush on, and was pleasantly surprised after a day of fear that her response was kind and knowing. She later had to come to terms with the fact that the Military did not accept her for her sexuality.

Keywords: Acceptance; Coming Out; Fear; Gay; LGBTQ+ Identity; Lesbian; Misunderstanding; Understanding

00:50:36 - LGBTQ in the Military

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Partial Transcript: "Yeah. And that was very hard because the military at that point, you could not be gay... everybody knew. It's not like they didn't know. I think people knew things, but it was a scary time because I was at that point where I was now interested in having a girlfriend or wanting to date, but here I am at West Point where I can actually literally get kicked out if they were to find out. So it's a pretty challenging place to deal with how do I accept this about myself in the midst of obviously the military and society already doesn't accept me. But there was always this underground group of us that knew about each other. And we all knew who was who and who was also gay. When you had free time, which wasn't a lot, you would end up trying to hang out with each other and times that you were allowed to leave campus, which wasn't a lot. But I had this group of people that we knew because.. and it's so funny thinking back on it now, because I haven't thought about this stuff in a long time. But one of the other... one of my friends who was actually one of my first girlfriends unfortunately, because she was a terrible girlfriend. Broke my heart, broke my heart, broke my heart. But good because it ended up for the best. But anyway, we've stayed friends. But she actually knew someone who lived off campus. A civilian man that worked at West Point as a civilian. And she knew him and he was also gay. So he lived right outside the gate practically of the campus. So we would often be sneaking out and trying not to get caught sneaking out when we weren't supposed to be out and sneaking over to his house. His little apartment he had and we would all hang out there. And then of course you have to try to sneak in again without getting caught. But yeah, those are funny times. I laugh about it because he told us later that he had a landlord. The landlord lived around the corner or something. And the landlord used to think he was this big stud because all these women were parading in and out of his house. All these female cadets. These young female cadets coming in and out of his house. Woo, the man. So that was fun."

Keywords: Conservative; Crushes; Dating; Don't Ask Don't Tell; Lesbian; Military Academy; West Point; Women's Basketball