Pride Month: Airman opens up about struggles with sexuality

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is the second article in a series highlighting Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month and the unique stories of LGBT Airmen. One LGBT Airman wishes to remain anonymous and will be referred to as "Jane" throughout this story.)

I'm a lesbian.

Those three words can't describe someone who grew up where being gay is frowned upon; but they do.

The shy blonde always sensed something about her was different and couldn't put a name on why. The loner was always unable to relate to the boy-crazy phase the other girls surrounding her went through. To this day the Northern Michigan small town girl can't tell her biological parents the truth about her sexuality.

"My parents truly believe homosexuality is a sin," said Jane, who describes her sexuality as the pink elephant in the room. "My mother would fall apart if she honestly believes that I'm a lesbian. I haven't told them about my sexuality because I place my parents' beliefs above my own personal wants to protect them."

After hiding this part of her life over a decade, Jane is still unsure about when or how to tell her parents she's a lesbian.

"At some point I'll make the decision to tell my parents but I think the biggest thing about coming out is only you are going to know when the time is right," said Jane, who has known she was a lesbian for 11 years. "There were times when I was younger where I just wanted to grab my parents and say 'don't you get it; don't you see this; how can you not know I'm gay'. But it has to be done out of love and right now there is not a good avenue for me to say, 'hey this is the way things are.'"

Jane doesn't think telling her parents will have adverse effects on their relationship but still she keeps her secret.

"I know that my parents will love me regardless," said Jane. "Sometimes it's just not worth giving them the heartache because they truly believe being gay is wrong. If I can tolerate and bear that burden for them then I will."

Despite her apprehension to tell her parents the truth, Jane is openly honest about her sexuality with her military family.

"I understand [Jane] has different lifestyle choices than I do but that doesn't matter to me," said Tech Sgt. Katie Hester, who has known Jane for two years. "A person's choice of lifestyle does not define who they are as a professional. The Air Force wants people to be resilient [and] a part of resilience is to accept the things you cannot control. It is important in today's diverse military to accept and respect each Airman [because] each individual is unique and may lead different lifestyles."

Although "Jane" only shares her sexuality with her military family another Moody LGBT Airman has a different perspective and experience.

"In my opinion, telling your parents you're gay is a very minimal burden [when you consider] the stuff you've already burdened your parents with in life," said U.S. Air Force Airman Matthew Gomez, 38th Rescue Squadron aircrew flight equipment specialist. "They've carried you, they've fed you, and they've taught you.

"I think my mom was more proud of the fact that I told her because it brought us a lot closer," said Gomez. "She thought 'wow there's a whole new side of you.' Now, I can bring whoever I'm dating around my family and now I can be truly happy. I can say 'hey mom I'm dating this guy, this is his name' and stuff like that allows us to just go out and have a good time without me having to hide any part of me."

Regardless his experience, the Los Angeles native understands the fear and stigmas associated with telling someone he's gay and he doesn't discount the courage it takes to make this decision.

"[People don't reveal their sexuality because they're] afraid of what people will say, think or treat you differently," said Gomez, who has known he was gay since freshmen year of high school. "They do treat you different but you have to learn and understand that there are going to be people in your life that are closed minded about it. I know pride month is a huge deal but there are a lot of LGBT members that are not out. Half of the LGBT members that I know on this base are not out."

"Some people in your life are going to (disown you) because of it but the ones that stay are the ones who truly care about you," Gomez added.

Just as Gomez doesn't think people should let these fears get in their way, he applied the same motto to his own life by joining the military while Don't Ask Don't Tell was still active.

"My family has a huge tradition of serving our nation and that's what I grew up on so the only decision for me to make was what branch; none of that other stuff mattered to me," said Gomez. "I definitely joined knowing that [I had to hide my sexuality]. I talked to individuals before I joined and they explained that they knew members who were LGBT but they didn't mind because the only thing that mattered was if you're doing your job and you're doing it effectively."

Those words of encouragement were all Gomez needed and now since joining the Air Force DADT has been repealed leaving Gomez with no regrets.

"Even if Don't Ask Don't Tell was still in effect in the Air Force, the unit I'm in now would still be very loving and caring to me," said Gomez, who was prepared to hide his sexuality his entire career. "I wouldn't trade my squadron for the world. They definitely make me feel welcome."

Their stories maybe different but Gomez and "Jane" share the support of their Air Force family.