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Icemen share LGBT experiences

Senior Airmen Abigail, left, and Tori Andrade, 354th Security Forces Squadron members, play at a park with their son, Maximus, June 9, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Andrades married in Feb. 2013; they were the first married lesbian couple on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

Senior Airmen Abigail, left, and Tori Andrade, 354th Security Forces Squadron members, play at a park with their son, Maximus, June 9, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Andrades married in Feb. 2013; they were the first married lesbian couple on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

Airman 1st Class Celeste Smith, 354th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, holds the rainbow flag for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month June 12, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Smith is an open bisexual and a member of the LGBT Pride Month committee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

Airman 1st Class Celeste Smith, 354th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, holds the rainbow flag for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month June 12, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Smith is an open bisexual and a member of the LGBT Pride Month committee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

1st  Lt. Shaina Thompson, 354th Fighter Wing chief of protocol, video chats with her partner Tessa Baker at College Coffeehouse June 8, 2014, Fairbanks, Alaska. Baker, who lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, proposed to Thompson May 29. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

1st Lt. Shaina Thompson, 354th Fighter Wing chief of protocol, video chats with her partner Tessa Baker at College Coffeehouse June 8, 2014, Fairbanks, Alaska. Baker, who lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, proposed to Thompson May 29. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- This May, President Barack Obama signed the proclamation to observe June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Icemen and their families have taken the opportunity to learn about the newly DoD-sanctioned month, paving the way for future generations.

From the base's first married gay commander to single bisexual airmen, LGBT members have stepped up to tell their stories and talk about the challenges they have and continue to face as an open LGBT military member.

"I lived under Don't Ask Don't Tell for 10 years and the only words to describe how I felt were paranoia, fear and isolation," said Maj. Mickey Jordan, 354th Communications Squadron commander. "The hardest part was at any point it felt like a trapped door could open underneath me and it would all be over."

Jordan, along with many service members, stand next to their brothers and sisters in arms with the same intent: to serve their country and do it as best as possible, regardless of whom they choose to love at home.

"All I want to do in my life is serve my nation and that came from family roots," said Jordan. "In this profession, you put your life on the line and give it everything you have, but when you know there's this one aspect that the military has an issue with, you feel like you're living day to day."

Since moving to Eielson one year ago, Jordan and his husband, J.D., say they have both been welcomed with open arms, not only by fellow commanders, but Airmen and their families as well.

"Being gay hasn't been a factor at all; we're a family, just another type of family. The Airmen know that we have a job to do and a mission to perform and we are very focused on that," said Jordan. "We've been floored by the support network each commander gives one another and I tend to not see any differences between us and any other commander. Since we all face similar challenges, we're truly a very close team."

According to the Service members Legal Defense Network, it is estimated that 14,000 men and women were discharged in the 18 years that DADT was law.

After watching many comrades get kicked out of the military for being gay, Jordan has been pleased with the advancements of the LGBT military community, such as the repeal of DADT and the passing of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Along with Jordan, other openly gay couples also live on base, and the leadership has championed change to facilitate it.

When Senior Airman Tori Andrade, 354th Security Forces Squadron pass and registration NCO in charge, married Senior Airman Abigail Andrade, 354th SFS response force leader, DOMA, which allows them the same legal respect and treatment as heterosexual married couples, had not been passed.

"When we first got married we had to live in separate dorm rooms because we couldn't get a house on base yet," said Andrade. "Luckily, our leadership worked really hard and Abigail and I now live in base housing."

The Andrades also shaped a change when they became the first married lesbian couple on base to welcome a baby into the world.

"When I went into labor we ran into a little trouble with Abigail getting paternal leave," said Andrade. "Once again, our leadership was dealing with something that had never been encountered here before, but Abigail did get leave to spend time with Maximus after his birth."

The Andrades say they have enjoyed the LGBT committee and hope that future gay members with children will be awarded the same respect as their heterosexual counterparts.

"We understand some people might not be okay with our lifestyle, but the Airmen here have been really supportive and all of them love Max," said Andrade. "At the end of the day, I have Abigail's last name on my uniform, I have a healthy son and that's all that matters to me. I hope other couples who are in our situation feel the same way."

Another aspect of LGBT Pride month is bisexual, which means an individual is sexually attracted to both men and women.

"I knew I was bisexual when I was younger, and told my parents at a much different time than I told the rest of the world," said Airman 1st Class Celeste Smith, 354th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician. "Being on the LGBT Pride committee has made me realize that I'm not alone and it's really refreshing."

Smith attends the many different events the LGBT Pride committee hosts and is pleased with the turnout from the Iceman team.

"I think it's the most comforting when I see higher ranking people at the events. My peers don't judge me on this, but you never know if everyone else is accepting or not," said Smith. "When leadership takes their time to understand who we are and that we are normal people, it really sends a positive message to LGBT members."

Future events are planned for LGBT Pride Month including a Color My World open mic night June 26 at 6 p.m at the Yukon Club.

All Icemen and their families are encouraged to attend the events as an LGBT member, ally or to learn more about each member.

For more information on LGBT Pride Month, email 1st Lt. Shaina Thompson or talk with any LGBT Pride committee member.
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