COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The Defense Federal Community Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity hosted its annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month Special Emphasis Program on June 23. The program was live-streamed from the Defense Supply Center Columbus’ Operations Center Auditorium for associates who were unable to attend.
As noted by the Library of Congress, the month of June is designated as LGBTQ Pride Month and just one way to recognize and celebrate the many achievements of the LGBTQ community, which includes members of the Federal workforce.
This year’s LGBTQ Special Emphasis Program promoted the theme of “Respect. Dignity. Service. Pride In All Who Serve,” intended to promote the dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and queer people in the workforce.
Land and Maritime Director of Operations and Executive Champion for the LGBTQ Special Emphasis Program Griff Warren opened the program with remarks highlighting the SEP that featured a discussion panel comprised of three Land and Maritime associates who shared their personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ and federal workforce communities.
Warren concluded his remarks by welcoming those in attendance and viewing online and introducing the panelists and moderator for the event.
- Bethany Darby, customer account specialist for DLA Land and Maritime
- Jiwon Han, branch chief for Supplier Operations Research and Analysis Branch in the Business Process Support Directorate and
- Jim Wagner, project manager of DLA/USMC Industrial Supply Integration
The panel was moderated by Sheri Kelley, LGBTQ Special Emphasis Program committee member and EEO Disability Program Coordinator for DLA Land and Maritime.
Upon taking the stage, Kelley, immediately set the tone for the discussion by stating “the most used pronouns in the English language refer specifically to one’s gender; however, depending on how a person self-identifies, misplaced pronouns can create discomfort, cause stress and anxiety.”
Kelley transitioned into the event’s question-and-answer session asking panelists to identify their preferred pronouns before responding to their first question, then asked the panel, “Why would we ask someone their preferred pronoun?”
The first question of the event was answered without hesitation by Darby.
“I’m Bethany Darby, and I use the preferred pronouns she, her, hers. You may want to ask someone their preferred pronouns because these are the ways we address ourselves as well as others. By asking someone their preferred pronouns you’re asking that person to share a little bit more about themselves with you.”
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Gender Identity is the individual's internal sense of being male or female or an identity other than the traditional definitions of male or female. The way an individual expresses his or her gender identity is frequently called “gender expression,” and may or may not conform to social stereotypes associated with a particular gender. Gender identity, which is an individual’s internal sense of being male, female or something else, is distinct from sexual orientation, which describes to whom a person is romantically attracted. Most people have a fixed identity as male or female; those who don’t may describe themselves as “non-binary” or “gender queer.”
The opening dialogue laid the foundation for the remainder of the event, which consisted of 11 questions with each inviting the audience to discover more about not only the three panelists on stage but an overarching understanding of the LGBTQ community.
Kelley’s questions to the panelists were deeply personal and thought-provoking, such as; Have you always been out at work? How long did you wait before you came out in the workplace? Have you experienced any problems or difficulties specifically tied to your LGBTQ orientation or identity? And do you feel your identification as being part of the LGBTQ community has affected your career?
“I do feel as if being a member of the LGBTQ community has affected my career,” Han said. “I think it affected my career in a positive way. I had previously served as the LGBTQ SEP chairperson for three years. That experience provided me the opportunity to work directly with the command staff, the EEO office, protocol office and executive champion, allowing me to gain expertise as an action officer. This experience gave me the opportunity to establish transferable skills and then apply those skills to other projects that I managed subsequently. Being out really allowed me to bring my whole self to work. It allowed me to be a better person, a better employee and just be myself.”
The panel discussion concluded by Kelley giving a sincere thank you to the panelists taking part in the Pride Month observance, directing those in attendance with any questions to contact the LGBTQ SEP Chair: Robert ‘Scott’ Humphrey via email at: Robert.Humphrey@dla.mil and provided an open invitation to the next LGBTQ SEP committee meeting.
“We would love to have your presence at one of the LGBTQ SEP committee meetings. Our committee meetings are open to all members and allies,” Kelley concluded.
GLAAD.org states an ally “can merely be someone who is supportive and accepts the LGBT person, or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment. Allies are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBTQ movement. Not only do allies help people in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect.”
For more information and available resources please visit OPM.gov by clicking here.