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Commentary: LGBT community and those who serve

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

Recently, Seymour Johnson AFB celebrated diversity among the community. One of the communities that was celebrated was LGBT members. Approximately 1.3 million members currently serve in the armed services. Of this, somewhere between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender members serve in active duty, however, not all of these members will attempt to transition while serving, according to a 2016 RAND Corporation study. Furthermore, about 65,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual men and women account for 2.8 percent of the military. What does this mean to you and how does this impact the mission?

With the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in September 2011, it is noted by past and current members of the Air Force that it is a new military and a new Air Force. We are living in a world where tolerance and acceptance are becoming the norm, although there are still some uphill battles to be fought. With that fight, we on Seymour Johnson AFB chose to inspire all manner of people who live and serve in our community. 

I spoke with an individual who joined shortly after the removal of DADT, and by her experiences, the military community will always come first. She has felt supported by the fact that the Air Force specifically has stepped up for the LGBT community, which has made our family grow. Same-sex marriage has not reduced anyone’s ability to complete the mission; however, some hurdles still exist. 

One such hurdle noted by Staff Sgt. Alisha Thompson from the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron was being deployed in certain locations where being gay is illegal. She recalled that during a deployment, shortly after she married her wife, Jayme, she removed her wedding ring to prevent people from asking her about her husband, so she would not accidentally reply that she had a wife. Thompson also relayed that being stationed overseas as a same-sex married couple was difficult because other countries didn’t recognize their marital status. Additionally, some do not recognize same-sex marriages, rather they refer to them as civil unions.

Thompson spoke highly of the support she received from her wingmen. The support she encountered – people ensuring they were careful with their words around foreign nationals, them being protective of their fellow wingman – was overwhelmingly positive. 

With the inclusion of the LGBT community, we were happy to celebrate their successes and triumphs over the years. The military has invited many people among their ranks, and we were proud to celebrate people who come from all walks of life.

 

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