“Every single American — gay straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society.”In light of June’s LGBT Pride Month, the Air Force has made strides in how we regard these individuals, as both military members and human beings, since the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2011. What used to be taboo has now become widely accepted by the Defense Department.
Even though many in this age are accepting of these changes, things weren’t always so easy for my better half, Emily, and I. When I met her, I had just arrived at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. and was balancing work, career development courses, on-the-job training, fitness and deployment readiness.
I made her acquaintance through a friend who worked with her in the 432nd Maintenance Squadron munitions flight. When we met, we instantly clicked and began dating after a few weeks of knowing each other.
We had many obstacles to overcome, such as sharing our relationship with family, friends and co-workers. It was a process that was difficult and sensitive, and we weren’t sure what we would be facing. But, we pressed on.
In the beginning, Emily’s mom didn’t take it well. Adding to our difficulties, she received orders for her first deployment three weeks out from the date of her departure.
For a while, it seemed like everything was against us. For Emily, the unwillingness of individuals to accept our relationship was perhaps the hardest part.
“People think it’s not the same as loving someone of the opposite gender, and that there’s something wrong with you,” Emily said. “I’ve never once questioned it; I just knew how I felt and acted on it. It’s not about gender, but how someone makes you feel.”
Luckily, I was able to find strength and resiliency through my Air Force family. I will never forget the day that I came out to my co-workers in my office.
Although it was a day I had anticipated, I was nervous to see their reactions. To my surprise, they gave me unwavering support and treated me with the same level of respect as everyone else in my shop.
My fellow Airmen and supervisors checked on me regularly, offered me their help and let me lean on them when I needed it most. With the support of my shop, Emily and I were able to power through all our obstacles and remain hopeful, and eventually things became much easier.
These days, our families are more accepting of our relationship. Emily’s mom messages me daily and we update each other continuously while Emily serves downrange.
For those who are going through similar struggles, I can only urge you to be proud of who you are whether you identify as gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Coming out may seem hard at first, but it gets easier with time.
Everyone was made differently. We all think, look and feel differently, and we interpret our lives through very unique lenses. As the president and other top leaders have said, everyone deserves respect and should be evaluated based on character and merit and not sexual preference.
Every Airman is important and has something unique to bring to the fight. Embrace what makes you different. Trust in your Air Force family, and they will take care of you.