DLA Land and Maritime celebrates LGBT pride

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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The theme at the 2nd annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride event at Defense Supply Center Columbus was “celebration” – a celebration of community, acceptance, respect, and wholeness.

Wholeness was one of the central topics of the presentation given by the event’s guest speaker, Dr. Eva George, associate professor of History and Cultural Studies at Capital University.

“When you can’t bring your whole self to work, you’re like an iceberg,” George said. “People can only see a small percentage of what gives you your identity.”

George noted that many aspects of identity may seem obvious, but some factors including sexual preferences or attitudes are often less apparent. She added that when a person doesn’t feel comfortable expressing their inner feelings in the workplace, they can never achieve their full potential.  

“A recent study showed that 42% of closeted workers from the LGBT community felt isolated at work, compared with only 24% of openly gay employees,” George said. “Closeted LGBT workers were 73% more likely to seek alternative employment after only three years if they felt they were in a hostile work environment.” 

George discussed professional obstacles caused by her sexuality and the differences in acceptance she’s experienced at previous jobs. In all cases, she’s worked as an advocate for those in the LGBT community, whether overtly or simply serving as a role model.

The message of wholeness carried added significance to those in attendance, with the memories of the recent mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub still fresh in their minds.

Once everyone had taken their seats, a special moment of silence was observed to pay respect to the injured and those who lost their lives in the Florida shooting.

Mark Cooke, baritone section leader of the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus performed a stirring rendition of the National Anthem to formally start the program. A former soldier himself, Mark dedicated his performance to the legacy of military service and the important work of LGBT initiatives throughout the world.

During his opening remarks, DLA Land and Maritime Acquisition Executive Milton Lewis reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to the diversity of its workforce.

“We must continue to work every day to ensure the Defense Department is a model of equal opportunity and fair treatment, for our troops, for all of our civilian employees, and for all their loved ones,” Lewis said. “As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, let us take pride in all who step forward to serve our country – past, present, and future.  As fellow citizens, we honor them, and we thank them.”

Lewis also reflected on his own career in the military and how many changes he’d experienced throughout those years.

“I think back to my own 29 years in the Army. Back then, if it was discovered you were gay or lesbian, you would have been ostracized. We’ve worked hard to fix this, and while we’ve made some significant progress, we still have hurdles to clear.

“The United States military is the finest in the world—not primarily because of our equipment and technology, but because of our people.”

The 2016 pride month program was sponsored by DLA Land and Maritime’s LGBT Special Emphasis Program.