MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. --
In a historic first for the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month celebration was held here on June 27 with approximately 20 Airmen in attendance.
Pride Month is recognized each year in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, in which members of the LGBT community rebelled against police raids by the New York City Police Department at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village.
TEC’s first ever Pride Month event was fortuitously timed to take place just one day shy of the 50th anniversary of the riots, which are largely viewed as a tipping point for the gay rights movement in the U.S.
“Celebrating our diversity today, with TEC’s first LBGT awareness event tells me just how strong our staff is in its diversity as a total Air Force team,” said Lt. Col. John Capra, deputy commander of the TEC. “We are here to show that support, as well as to better understand each other. That makes a lasting impression on all of us to our future force.”
During the event, attendees viewed a brief video from when former President Barack Obama signed the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 22, 2010, thus allowing all gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces.
Afterward, attendees were invited to share personal experiences with the LGBT community. Several Airmen became emotional while telling stories about family members and the various struggles they watched them go through after coming out, while others discussed some of the more positive encounters they have had in the military since the repeal of DADT.
“I am grateful to work in a place where I no longer have to go through my routine of positive self affirmations just to get through the day,” said Master Sgt. Elizabeth Aguirre, an enlisted professional military education instructor and co-organizer of the TEC’s Pride Month event. “Before the repeal of DADT, I would have daily thoughts such as, my work ethic has to come through before I tell them about my relationship; I need to show that I am ‘normal', fun, dependable, and then it won't seem like such an issue; I can just use pronouns when people start asking questions; I don't look gay so I should be fine here; please Lord give me the strength if I have to spend today defending myself as a gay Christian; etc.”
“If these things don't cross your mind, be thankful,” said Aguirre. “In my opinion, being straight is a privilege, and without something like Pride Month to recognize the pain that so many have suffered through and acknowledge the progress that is still left to be made, that privilege can easily be taken for granted.”
The event closed with an anonymous question and answer session which was aimed at educating Airmen on LGBT topics they were curious about but may have been afraid to ask in person.