ROBINS AIR BASE WING, Ga. --
For 17 years the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law prohibited qualified gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the armed forces.
However, the DADT ban on gay and lesbian service members was repealed in 2010; just a few years before Senior Airman Keynia Saunders, 461st Maintenance Squadron, enlisted.
“At the time, the thought of my orientation never came to mind,” Saunders said. “Only when people I knew started asking me ‘Is it OK to be gay in the military?’ did I realize how new the DADT repeal still was for the military and that discrimination or bias could still exist.”
Although Saunders hasn’t had any backlash from her peers in the military, growing up and witnessing others within the LGBT community being treated differently and disrespectfully instills in her an even greater desire to display her pride; to try to shed light that everyone is created equally, regardless of sexual orientation, skin color or religious beliefs.
Every person deserves to be treated as a human being.
“It’s always been important to me to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month,” Saunders said. “For years during middle school and high school, my friends and I would participate in a silent protest for a day. We would say nothing all day in hopes that it would spark conversation and ultimately an understanding for the rest of our peers that not everyone has a voice, not everyone can be who they are without fear of recourse.”
According to the Library of Congress webpage, https:// www.loc.gov/, LGBT Pride Month is celebrated every June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally and internationally.
Saunders’ advice to those struggling with the fear of being treated differently because of their orientation is to live your life and be true to who you are.
“Don’t hide anything. If you aren’t comfortable telling anyone, you don’t have to,” she said. “The military has a lot of programs in place to keep you safe, and at times I think even safer than in the civilian workforce. There is a zero tolerance policy in the military against discrimination and prejudice so live without fear and be yourself.”