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Pride in uniform

TOKYO -- U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos addresses his guests in his Tokyo home during a reception in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month June 4, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos addresses his guests in his Tokyo home during a reception in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month on June 4, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Perhaps the phrase, "Have pride in your uniform," evokes flashbacks of basic training or a particularly exacting first sergeant, but in the spirit of National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, I think we can look at this phrase in a new light.

I'm proud of my nation, my president, my Air Force and my colleagues for giving us the current state of LGBT rights in the United States. As a bisexual service member, being able to put on my uniform and live the core values of integrity, service and excellence to their truest meaning has instilled immeasurable pride in wearing that uniform. The past year has seen some significant changes to LGBT rights as a whole, but no change has been more pivotal to those of us serving in the armed forces than the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last September.

"Because we repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love," said President Barack Obama in his proclamation of LGBT Pride Month for June 2012.

It's hard to imagine the repeal only happened a few short months ago. Life has gained a sense of normalcy I never had thought possible prior to the repeal. Just being able to answer the question of "What did you do for fun this weekend?" openly and honestly is a breath of fresh air.

About two months ago, Tokyo had its first pride parade, which will continue annually. I walked the parade route through Harajuku and Shibuya with 11 other service members from bases around Honshu. I can't begin to describe the feeling of walking with the 2,500-person-strong parade and seeing the 2,000 spectators, Japanese and a few Americans I recognized from base, all cheering us on and waving rainbow flags. Participating in an event like that would have been unimaginable just two years ago.

My pride isn't limited to just the repeal of DADT, though. Obama referred to LGBT rights as simply being human rights, and said his administration continues to engage with the American and international communities to promote and protect those rights.

I attended a reception in honor of LGBT Pride Month at U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos' house in Tokyo on June 4, and I spoke to some of the guests representing LGBT communities from around the world. It was truly eye-opening to see the great variation of acceptance people see depending on where they are born. Countries like Holland have supported LGBT equality since World War I, while other countries still consider homosexuality to be a criminal offense. As our country continues to move forward, I am incredibly thankful to be American, and to live in this age of new possibilities.

So here it is, my "pride in uniform." I'm proud of my government and my commander-in-chief for allowing me to serve openly. I'm proud of my country for fighting for my rights just as much as I fight for theirs. I'm proud of my unit for accepting me for who I am and holding my value as an Airman above my orientation. I'm proud of my LGBT friends for showing honest solidarity as we embrace this new future. I'm proud of the rest of my friends for supporting me through the good times and especially the bad, regardless of their own orientation. Mostly, I'm proud to be a bisexual Airman serving the world's greatest air power.

As the month of June comes to a close, be proud of the fact that we have successfully done what some have said would destroy unit cohesion and morale, while instead strengthening the bonds with our fellow service members though honesty. Be proud of those who came out of the proverbial closet to bravely fight for their rights before it was socially acceptable to do so. And, if you are part of the LGBT community, be proud of who you are, because the only person who can ultimately define your true worth is you.

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