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Pride is personal: a Navy veteran’s perspective

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PRIDE is personal. A simple definition of pride is “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect”. So… if pride is so personal, why is every June specified (officially or unofficially) as LGBTQ Pride Month?!

The answer is simple…. Until our culture provides the environment for every human being to live their truth and develop self-respect for their innate being, communities will feel the need to unite to create that safe space, for a month, or just a day.

As attitudes evolve in the American culture, many more LGBTQ men and women are fortunate to have nurturing families, affirming friendships and supportive work environments. For these lucky people, their community may provide all the care and resources necessary for them to develop a healthy level of self-respect and dignity. It’s a basic human right.

Yet, there are still many communities that are not safe for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals. In a country where the “gay panic defense” is still an allowable defense for murder in some jurisdictions, where more than two dozen transgender people have been murdered in the past year, and where our government recently attempted to ban transgender troops from continuing to serve in the military…. No, these are not yet safe times for the LGBTQ community.

When I left the Navy in 1992 after 11 ½ years of honorable service, I made a promise to myself: to be the same person, all the time, everywhere. It’s what I wish for anyone today, to have self-respect and pride in their natural born self.

My choice to join the Navy in 1981 was borne out of patriotism and idealism. As a naïve 18-year-old boy at the U.S. Naval Academy, it was difficult to pursue my dream of a career in Naval Aviation while coming to terms with my emerging sexual orientation. The Navy at that time wasn’t an environment that allowed me to be openly… me. So, like many people then (and still today), I learned to compartmentalize my life, being what others wanted me to be rather than just being… me.

As a gay man, leading a double life took its toll on my family and professional relationships, and I thankfully found the dignity to live my innate truth in spite of the pervasive negativity in our culture.

I am fortunate to now have the love of family and the support of dear friends. At IAVA, I enjoy a diverse work environment with an employer that has affirmed my individuality from day one. From these support networks, I derive a joy of being… and yes, PRIDE. For this, I am grateful.

For all of us who have ever known the feeling of being different or feeling like an outcast, Pride Day lets us know we have a community that will nurture our individuality, the support and resources to guide our path to self-respect, and a network of allies in the fight against injustice.

Whether you choose to celebrate Pride Day or not, it exists for a purpose: for all people to have a day, a place, a means to have pride in themselves… if they need it. My idealistic self hopes that one day nobody will need it, that all lives will be filled with affirmation, and all people will be free to live openly with dignity.

But our culture is not there yet, and the world has a long way to go. Until then, Happy Pride! Celebrate if you want, or don’t. Pride is personal.

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