The military represents one of the most distinctive careers a person could pursue. Not only is it a life of discipline and service, but it involves countless sacrifices that only those who have served could comprehend. Women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have largely been overlooked in military history, despite being incredibly vital members of our armed forces.
Women have been serving in the military for decades, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when they were granted the same rights as their male counterparts. Despite this legislation, women have still been subjected to sexism, discrimination, harassment, and assaults. Women who are serving in positions where they’re responsible for providing direct combat assistance are referred to as front-line soldiers and risk their lives daily. In addition to the dangers of combat, they face the harsh realities of being a woman in a male-dominated culture.
On the other hand, LGBTQIA+ individuals who serve in the military face a different set of obstacles. Until 2010, individuals who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual faced expulsion if their sexual orientation was discovered. In 2011, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was repealed, allowing members of the LGBTQIA+ community to serve openly while still not having the same rights and privileges as their straight counterparts. However, the transgender community still encounters resistance, with a series of attempted bans on transgender individuals serving in the military.
Despite the challenges, women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to prove themselves and exhibit bravery that can never be ceased or ignored. Women like Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman to gain a Silver Star for her service in combat, or Kristen Beck, a retired Navy SEAL who came out as transgender, are testaments of courage and perseverance. These women serve as role models to future generations of women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who aspire to serve their country.
The sacrifices that women and LGBTQIA+ members make every day cannot be overstated. They leave their families and loved ones to serve this nation, putting their lives on the line for fellow countrymen and women they may never meet. They do so while navigating a culture that doesn’t always welcome them. They risk being ostracized, criticized, and sometimes even assaulted for their service. Despite these challenges, they remain steadfast in their determination to serve this nation, leaving an inspirational legacy for generations of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals to come.
Women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who serve in the military exhibit unmatched bravery, courage, and commitment. Despite the challenges, several women have made distinguished contributions to this nation and show us what true courage is. People within the LGBTQIA+ community serve this nation every day, exhibiting selflessness and giving their all to protect our country. We must celebrate them and respect their contributions, even as we continue fighting for equal rights and privileges for them. Let us each take the time to pause and reflect on the many lives changed and lost due to the tragic price of their service.