DOD LGBT equality enriches military life
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- We are targets; we are victims—but most of all, we are fighters and we are believers.
Throughout my life, I have always struggled with my sexual orientation and how to accept it. Joining the military made it seem even more difficult, but I yearned to serve my country just like millions before me.
Very soon after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, I found myself sitting in a mass lecture room during college surrounded by my fellow Air Force ROTC freshmen as my commandant explained to us how the change would impact the military as we knew it.
Whispers of pure hatred escaped the lips of my friends and classmates. Their slander kept me from revealing my secret as I began to second guess my lifestyle and conform to the status quo. I felt I would never be accepted because I came from a family where being a lesbian was an abnormality and it seemed that I was surrounded by classmates who thought the same—even if my feelings were true.
So, I focused on being the best student and future Airman I could be as I shouldered the burden of hiding who I truly was to any of my classmates or family.
A couple of years passed and I left college, enlisted in the Air Force, graduated from basic military training and settled into my current duty station at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Unlike my previous assignment, my new work center has done nothing but welcome and accept my sexuality and their support drives me to be a better Airman. I no longer have to keep one of my best attributes from my coworkers, which at first, was intimidating.
Throughout June, Pride Month posters blast across social media from our Air Force leaders. This makes me feel ecstatic because it proves the Air Force and Department of Defense, as a whole, are moving forward. But then, the hate resurfaced as I read the appalling comments littering our leaders’ messages. They remind me that not everyone is ready for these progressive ideals
“Homosexuals are a disgrace to the Air Force and the United States of America.”
“I am so glad I retired when I did. I would never serve with those people."
Thousands more flood the Air Force’s leadership and base pages, but with every negative comment, there are more positive comments fighting against the hate. Friends and supporters praise the LGBT community, describe how we help shape the military and applaud our addition to its cultural diversity.
Pride Month is not about forcing who we love on others, it’s about celebrating the opportunities we all have while serving in the military—whether gay, bisexual, straight or transgendered. Pride Month is about celebrating the struggles, sacrifices and successes our community endured to achieve the equality we relish today.
Looking back, I remember my freshman year in college hearing my classmates with their hurtful comments, and realize they inspired me to rise up, make a stand, be proud of who I am and to not change just because my feelings are not “traditional.”
Despite our progress toward a better tomorrow, we still find ourselves hiding. Throughout the world, our LGBT community are still targets of hate crimes, but we stay true to ourselves, regardless of what society pushes as “the norm.” We stand solid in our conviction and passionately love who we want.
As a member of the LGBT community, I write this anonymously for you not to judge me as an individual—but to accept our community as your comrades in arms asking for equality for all members, regardless of their sexual orientation, race or religion.
At the end of the day, we are all warriors who affirmed the same oath. I challenge you all to stand up for what you believe in—it may be hard at first, but you will see it become easier as days pass. Don’t allow others or society to define who you are or who you want to be.
Just be yourself… that’s all you can be.
Editor's Note: The name of the individual has been changed or removed to protect the identities of those involved.