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    Pride, Progress, and Military Service



    Story by Megan Mills 

    Naval Air Station Sigonella

    Although the U.S. Navy now embraces June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month with the theme “Pride in All Who Serve,” it was only 10 years ago that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was the U.S. military’s official policy.

    Since the repeal of DADT in September of 2011, LGBTQ+ Sailors have been able to simultaneously serve their country and fully express their identity.

    Yeoman 1st Class David Olvera of U.S. Naval Hospital Sigonella joined the Navy in 2008, three years before the change in policy. He was facing homelessness after telling his parents about his sexual orientation, and turned to the Navy despite what it would mean for him.

    “It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make,” he said, “but I am grateful for all of the opportunities and experiences I have had.”

    Retail Service Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan J. Goulsby of Defense Courier Service Sigonella spent four years in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program in high school, but found the news coverage of DADT at the time to be disheartening.

    “I was extremely interested in the military, but DADT really scared me,” he said.

    For many like Goulsby and Olvera, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was an important milestone, but it didn’t erase all concerns.

    “I was relieved yet cautious about the repeal because personally I didn’t believe that just because it got repealed it would automatically change the entire military’s opinion on the LGBT community,” said Goulsby. “We were allowed to serve out and openly, but that did not mean everyone would agree with our lifestyle.”

    Olvera also had mixed feelings. “For the first time, I could confidently and proudly serve alongside my fellow service members without the fear of reprisal because of my sexual orientation,” he said. “Yet, it felt bittersweet to know the many others service members discriminated against under the policy.”

    In the 1950s, LGBTQ+ service members were routinely discharged from service. In 1981, Department of Defense Directive 1332.14 initiated a mandatory discharge for any attempt to “engage in a homosexual act.” DADT, which required LGBTQ+ service members to keep their sexuality to themselves or be discharged from service, became policy in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, who issued the first Gay and Lesbian Pride Month Proclamation in 2000.

    Pride Month is held in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. Police raided a gay bar on June 28, and the patrons resisted. Over the next several days, thousands of protesters joined the uprising that ensued. The first “Pride March” was held one year later in 1970, and celebrations have expanded since.

    Progress has also continued, with same-sex marriage becoming legal throughout the United States in 2015 and increased rights for transgender service members being signed into law in the following years.

    Earlier this month, President Joe Biden declared June 2021 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month.

    Both Goulsby and Olvera have had overall positive experiences in their time serving as LGBTQ+ Sailors.

    “Since I’ve been in the military, the Navy has continued to make strides towards inclusiveness and combating discrimination among the ranks,” said Olvera. “Witnessing and experiencing these changes in policies, leadership, and support services have been instrumental in feeling supported throughout my career. I also would not be where I am today without the support and friendship I have received from amazing shipmates I’ve had the opportunity to serve alongside over the years.”

    Goulsby has found support from both his command and from the NASSIG Second Class Petty Officer’s Association. “I am truly fortunate to be embraced with nothing but open arms throughout my career thus far,” he added.

    Reflecting on the importance of Pride Month 2021, both Sailors are grateful for the pioneers who came before them.

    “There are countless activists, allies, and pioneers that have helped pave the way for the LGBTQ community,” said Olvera. “I think it is instrumental in honoring and continuously educating our youth and ourselves about the sacrifices and remarkable strides of those who have come before in support of gay rights.”

    Goulsby agrees. “Pride is a celebration of queer life and culture, but it is also to commemorate and give thanks to all the greats like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (to name a few),” he said. “They sacrificed their safety and put their lives on the line to fight for the rights of queer people like me because they knew if they didn’t, then things would never change.”



    Date Taken: 06.18.2021
    Date Posted: 07.08.2021 08:31
    Story ID: 400493
    Location: SIGONELLA, IT 

    Web Views: 9
    Downloads: 0