Being an LGBTQ Ally

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julia Santiago
  • 108th Wing

The 108th Wing joins the Department of Defense and the nation in paying tribute to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community during Pride Month 2021.

According to a 2020 Gallup's survey of more than 15,000 Americans aged 18 and older, 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ. “Although the current number of trans-gender U.S. military service members is unclear, it is estimated that at least approximately 12,000 transgender service members may be impacted by current and ongoing policy changes regarding their service eligibility,” as referenced in the 2020 article titled Gender Dysphoria in United States Veterans and Military Personnel: Historical Context and Current Policies.

For the month of June, this celebration brings light to the way LGBTQ service members and civilians strengthen our military and our country with the theme, “Pride in all who serve.” Staff Sgt. Kaitlyn Kanich, an emergency manager with the 108th Civil Engineering Squadron, shares her stories and some ways that everyone could become a better LGBTQ ally.

Q. What does Pride mean to you?

To me, Pride is being accepting and proud of what makes us unique. Everyone was born different. Being in the LGBTQ community is a part of people and no one should be ashamed for identifying as being a part of that community.

Q. What do you want people who are outside the LGBTQ community to know about it?

People who identify as LGBTQ are extremely diverse and often misunderstood by those outside of it. I have close friends and family members who are part of the LGBTQ community. People in the community just want to be respected and be able to have the same chances at life as everyone else. People outside the community need to know that they do not know everything about the LGBTQ community and that it is constantly evolving and changing with the times just like the rest of society.

Q. What makes a good ally?

A good ally is someone who listens and does not dismiss what someone in the LGBTQ community says. A good ally also does not rush to judgement. There is a lot of misinformation out there and a good ally will listen to those who have firsthand experience and do their own unbiased research.

Q. What are some examples of everyday occurrences of discrimination for LGBTQ individuals that people outside the community might not know about?

Every day, I hear a lot of snide comments and they often come from people just walking by that have no clue who the person is. I have seen co-workers get called a dyke or a transvestite simply because the other person thinks they look a particular way. This was hurtful to my co-workers and family members who are trans or gay as well as those that are not.

I have also had to deal with friends and family members who cannot even use a public restroom alone. They may look masculine but are biologically female. They have been chased out of bathrooms and had people make comments to them while they are trying to wash their hands. It is a lose-lose situation for them.

Q. What are some things that might make LGBTQ individuals uncomfortable?

Being questioned about their involvement in the LGBTQ community makes many uncomfortable, especially if it is coming from someone that they do not know well or someone who has made it clear they hate the community and do not support anyone in it. While asking questions is okay so that people can be more aware; if someone says they do not want to talk about it you should not push it. You also need to evaluate the circumstances leading up to your questions. Did you just make a comment saying that you will never understand trans people and then ask someone who you think is trans what their opinions are? By making those comments you create an unwelcoming environment and come across as closed-minded.

Q. What is the importance of pronouns?

Pronouns are a sign of respect. I can disagree with someone’s choices but still be respectful to them.

Q. What is an appropriate way to approach an LGBTQ individual about their personal experiences relating to their identity?

Do it in private. Do not ask in a public area where others may overhear the conversation, since this may make the individual uncomfortable. Be genuine in your questions and open-minded. But also, do not push it. If the person does not want to talk about it there is a reason behind it.

Q. What do you recommend for people who might want to get more involved with LGBTQ activism?

There are local LGBTQ chapters and communities online; find one and join. Be polite and respectful.