USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden celebrated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month with a guest speaker and panel discussion followed by food and refreshments and a cake cutting June 20 at Clay Kaserne.
Noting the rainbow-colored decorations at the event, Lt. Col. Edwin Escobar, USAG Wiesbaden director of Emergency Services, reminded attendees that “these colors are symbols of pride for a community that was unable to show their true colors for decades.”
Kerry Rice, U.S. Army Europe protocol officer for the Joint Visitors’ Bureau, spoke about his experience as a gay man in the military and civilian world.
Rice said he sees being gay not as a lifestyle choice but as something genetic, similar to “having grey hair or being bald — or being extremely good looking,” he said, lightheartedly.
“My level of activism has always been quiet conversations and changing one person’s mind,” he said, “changing a mind perhaps by the life I live and the example I set.”
Sgt. Maj. Pedro Rivera Hernandez, geospatial engineer and operations sergeant major with the 60th Engineer Detachment Geospatial Planning Cell, talked about finding out his son is gay. He said at first he didn’t take the news well. But then he realized that if he wasn’t there for his child, his child would turn to someone else for support.
“Years later, life is much better,” Rivera said.
When asked for advice on how to respond to friends or coworkers who feel negatively about a person who is LGBT, Kristie Escobar, Florida State University Schools Ph.D. candidate and award-winning LGBT researcher, said she recommends they look at all aspects of a person’s personality, not just their sexuality.
“I would recommend they talk to the person,” she said. “And talk about the things they have in common, because I would bet that they have more in common than they have differences.”
Ashley Keasler, visual information specialist with Training Support Activity Europe and former combat photographer, spoke about her experience as a lesbian in the military during the era when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was the official policy on military service by gays, bisexuals and lesbians.
The policy lasted from 1994 to 2011 and prohibited homosexual and bisexual service members from being honest about their sexual orientation or relationships, and if they did so, they would be discharged.
“I, personally, could see the difference,” Keasler said of the way Soldiers are treated since the law has been repealed.
LGBT Pride Month is celebrated each year in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally and internationally.