June is LGBT History Month and is a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history.
I’ve been in the Air Force for five years and have been openly gay in the military since the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2011. I came in the military without the thought of this law ever being repealed during my career. I expected I would serve quietly. I realized if I chose to speak, my career could be short lived. I also knew that if I was in a committed relationship with someone, there was a chance that person would not be able to go with me wherever the Air Force took me.
Before the repeal, I did not let it affect me too strongly and refused to lie about who I was. I found ways to evade conversations or turned to alternate truths.
Many who were openly gay before joining the service rejected hiding the truth and found conservative ways of identifying with other gay people. Although many do not make an outright declaration of being gay, in ways I can’t describe, we just know who each other is.
For some who find it more difficult, social media plays a part in organizing groups where members of the gay military community can converse and bond. We were strengthened by our community as we supported one another in the hopes one day DADT would be repealed.
When it was repealed, the first people I told were my co-workers. I received so much positive feedback. One NCO said to me, “By you being open and comfortable you will encourage so many others.”
Another said, “Having first known you as a co-worker and friend, and now knowing that you are gay has opened my eyes to my ignorance.”
Without meaning to I helped a man who was strongly opposed to my sexuality accept who I was.
The repeal of DADT has helped to expell the stereotype or preconceived notion many military members had toward gay individuals.
There was a time I couldn’t talk about who I was dating. Now, I can speak freely, yet respectfully of my lifestyle.
People ask me if I’m a proud gay man. I answer, “No more than I am of being a proud black man or a proud Airman.” I’m simply Christopher Odom, or Staff Sgt. Odom — no labels. Most who know me know me simply by my name long before they know I am gay. Shouldn’t that always be the case?