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    LGBT Community Member Johanna Flores Brings Perspective to the NIWC Pacific Mission

    LGBT Community Member Johanna Flores Brings Perspective to the NAVWAR Mission

    Courtesy Photo | Supporting a diverse Navy requires a diverse workforce that can offer multiple...... read more read more



    Story by Maison Piedfort 

    Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific

    Supporting a diverse Navy requires a diverse workforce that can offer multiple perspectives to carrying out the Center’s mission. Navy veteran Johanna L. Flores , deputy project manager for the Collaborative Software Armory (CSA), Modernization Application Growth and Innovation Center (MAGIC) and Application Arsenal, contributes to that diversity at NIWC Pacific.

    Flores enlisted in the Navy during the time of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the official U.S. policy that allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people to enlist in military service. DADT policy instated by Department of Defense Directive 1304.6 was issued Dec. 21, 1993 and repealed Sept. 20, 2011. The policy’s stance was exactly how it sounds — service members were not supposed to ask each other about their sexual orientation, and gay, lesbian and bisexual service members could serve as long as they hid their sexuality.

    Though the policy clearly stated “Don’t Ask” in the title and description, some people would still ask Johanna.
    “I remember [fellow sailors asking about my sexuality] and thinking, ‘oh man, I could actually get kicked out,’” she said. “That’s how it started, the feeling that I needed to hide it.”

    Growing up as a Mexican-American in a Catholic family, Flores recalls questioning her sexuality and telling herself, “You cannot be gay; that’s just not acceptable.”
    “I kind of knew I was gay since I was a kid, but I just wanted to make my life simpler, so for a long time I pretended I wasn’t,” she said.

    Flores continued to question her sexuality as she matured. Meanwhile, things got a little easier for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community members as LGBT people and their allies fought for equality. But hiding who she was in the military continued to be a challenge, especially since years spent suppressing her same-sex attraction meant she wasn’t sure of her own sexuality yet.
    “I tried to hide that part of myself so I wouldn’t get kicked out — but I wasn’t even entirely sure myself,” said Flores. “I thought, ‘maybe I am [a lesbian].’ But it was safer at the time to pretend I wasn’t.”

    Flores exited the Navy after eight years of service and subsequently came out as lesbian — and continues to do so as an ongoing practice. When asked when she came out, Johanna explained, “You’re always coming out.”

    “You never come out totally,” she said. “First, it’s your friends. Then, it’s to your family. Then, you have to come out to your coworkers, and then to everyone you meet. It’s a constant thing that you do. You’re always coming out to somebody.”

    Flores met her now-wife, Ivonne, in a club in Tijuana. Typically when a person is asked when he or she married, the answerer responds with a date or number of years. When Flores was asked, she said, “As soon as I was able.”

    For Flores and her wife, that year was 2013, when a ban on same-sex marriage in the state of California was reversed.
    Flores (left) poses with her wife, Ivonne, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

    Flores noted that while being gay in the military was tough under DADT that’s not the case at NIWC Pacific. She’s even been looking into starting a group at the Center for LGBT inclusivity.
    “Since I’m the Women of the Workforce (WoW) representative for Code 53200, I've been asking myself, should we start a group like WoW [for LGBT]?” she said.

    When asked how her experience as an LGBT community member might enable her to bring a different perspective to the Center, Flores noted the extra dose of empathy that one may glean from a life spent hiding who he or she is.
    “I can be a little more understanding of challenges people are having because of my experience of being afraid to be me,” Flores said. “It taught me that even though sometimes you can’t see it, people go through hard things. I can be a little bit gentler with people knowing they might be carrying heavy things I can’t see.”

    Flores said that in her experience empathy often yields elevated morale and productive collaboration.

    “The beauty of working at NIWC Pacific is that we are all different in our own ways, but come together as one team to support the warfighter mission,” said Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Specialist Delveen A. Tahir . “We should celebrate our diversity – today and every day.”



    Date Taken: 06.29.2020
    Date Posted: 06.30.2020 15:20
    Story ID: 373127
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

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