SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month was created to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, New York, the turning point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
The purpose of the month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on local, national and international history.
Violence against the LGBT community is on the rise. According to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 52 LGBT people were killed as a result of hate violence which, excluding the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, 2017 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBT community since 1996.
FBI crime reports in the last two years, murder of LGBT members have increased 86 percent.
James Hodges, public affairs operations chief with the 50th Space Wing, shared how he continues to face discrimination outside of the Air Force community.
“I've been married for two years and monogamous for five, but unless I'm celibate for 12 months I cannot donate blood,” he explained. “There is no scientific reason. All donated blood is screened for infectious diseases, but not everyone is screened for risk based on sexual behavior. It's referred to as a deferral, but essentially it's still a ban and still discrimination.”
Because of issues like this, Hodges stressed the importance of educating people through LGBT pride month.
“It is more important than ever to push for recognition and education when it comes to LGBT community members,” he said.
Capt. Branden Jarmon, commander’s inspection program and wing inspection team manager with the 50th SW Inspector General’s Office, said the Air Force is comprised of several minority groups, and they all should be recognized.
“It's important for these group to be recognized and feel like part of the Air Force family,” he said. “By recognizing LGBT pride month, it delivers the message that the Air Force stands behind its LGBT members, uniformed and civilian.”
Hodges said LBGT pride month is an important education opportunity like all of the diversity months.
“It gives everyone the chance to learn about the struggles the LGBT community has faced, honor how far we've come and prepare for the obstacles we still need to face,” he said. “Pride month creates visibility for a minority community that is a wide and diverse spectrum itself.”
Jarmon said not only is it important to recognize LGBT month, it also provides an avenue for everyone to learn about the community, and Hodges agrees.
“I hope people take the time to learn about the LGBT community and the obstacles we face,” Hodges said. “Working for the Air Force, we are afforded certain protections that not everyone gets.”
Although Jarmon has had positive experiences being an LGBT community member, others are not as lucky.
“I've only recently been open in the Air Force within the last few years, and have had nothing but positive experiences,” Jarmon said.
Hodges has had only positive experiences as well, and through education, small issues he has faced have been resolved peacefully.
“Over the years, there have been a few comments made out of ignorance, but when they were addressed and assumptions and stereotypes were corrected, everyone came out ahead,” he said. “This is why months like this are so important.”
Hodges praised Colorado for affording LGBT members certain protections that not everyone gets.
“In most states it's legal to fire someone for being LGBT,” he said. “It's also perfectly legal in most states to deny housing to someone who is LGBT.”
Jarmon hopes community members take away two important things from LGBT pride month.
“The first is that LGBT members feels comfortable being themselves and they know that they are respected and part of the Air Force family,” he said. “The second is that the rest of the Air Force population gains further understanding of the community, whether it be someone they work with/supervise, or simply understand why the month is important to recognize.”
Jarmon emphasized being open about your sexuality in the Air Force is safe.
“It may not be perfect, but there is a support system here,” he said. “However, if you are uncomfortable sharing that personal side of your life, there is nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself. Everyone should do what makes them comfortable.”
Hodges hopes people take the time to get to know someone who is LGBT, and hopes everyone is open and honest with everyone, especially themselves.
“We're not the stereotypes and assumptions society has placed on us,” he added. “Take it from someone who has spent the better part of his life trying to live a lie. This month is a time to not apologize or be made to feel ashamed for being who you are and stand up for your rights.”
For more information aboutLGBT pride month, visit https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/.