MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Service members and supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (LGBTQ)+ community at Misawa Air Base culminated Pride Month celebrations with a Pride Parade June 26, 2021. The parade route passed through residential areas on both north and main base. Participants decorated floats, tossed candy and showed pride in being who they are.
Other celebrations included a 5K Color Run and a panel discussion, to highlight the contributions, progress, and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the Air Force.
Pride Month is celebrated throughout the United States, and the rest of the world, in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which took place June 28 – July 3, 1969 in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The spontaneous demonstrations would later be seen as the start of the Pride Movement, in which members of the LGBTQ+ community protested the legal discrimination against them and demanded equal rights and protection under the law.
“Pride” was the central theme of the movement, in an effort to counter previous intolerance and disrespect that led to members of the LGBTQ+ community feeling ashamed or outcast for being who they are.
The Department of Defense had a long standing policy barring military service to those who were openly in the LGBTQ+ community. In 1994, the DoD implemented the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants. However, the policy still prohibited openly gay, lesbian or bisexual service members or applicants.
“Being a minority myself, I understand what it is like to be oppressed, or what it is like to be discriminated against,” said Tech. Sgt. Bradley Haywood, 35th Fighter Wing diversity, equity, inclusion representative. “And to have that done by the country, the service you’re a part of -- this is your family -- and to not really be allowed to be yourself at that point is rough.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed September 20, 2011, allowing LGBTQ+ community members to serve openly without discrimination against their sexual orientation.
“It gives me a sense of pride in the military that we are able to accept that change and able to push forward,” said Haywood. “The people I know who have pushed through, the conversations that I have with them are amazing. It’s amazing. The pain, the struggle they have gone through before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed to now gain that pride, that achievement that they pushed through, are some of the best stories I’ve ever heard.”
Although Pride Month is not formally recognized as a special observance by the DoD, most bases, including Misawa Air Base, still have Pride events and support local activities.