Team Yokota Comes Together to Celebrate Pride

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Livigni, 730th Air Mobility Squadron passenger service supervisor, shares his coming-out story with audience members at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month Picnic at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Livigni, 730th Air Mobility Squadron passenger service supervisor, shares his coming-out story with audience members at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month Picnic at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018. The event was an opportunity for the LGBT community to come together and celebrate pride with the rest of Team Yokota. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018.

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018. The Yokota LGBT Club organized this and other events to bring people together to celebrate Pride Month and the diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spalding)

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018.

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018. The Yokota LGBT Club organized this and other events to bring people together to celebrate Pride Month and the diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spalding)

A member of Team Yokota shares their story with audience members at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month Picnic at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018.

A member of Team Yokota shares their story with audience members at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month Picnic at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018. The event was an opportunity for the LGBT community to come together and celebrate pride with the rest of Team Yokota. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018.

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018. The Yokota LGBT Club organized this and other events to bring people together to celebrate Pride Month and the diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spalding)

A member of Team Yokota shares their story with audience members at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month Picnic at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018.

A member of Team Yokota shares their story with audience members at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month Picnic at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018. The event was an opportunity for the LGBT community to come together and celebrate pride with the rest of Team Yokota. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018.

Team Yokota joined together to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Month during a 5k held here, June 22, 2018. The Yokota LGBT Club organized this and other events to bring people together to celebrate Pride Month and the diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spalding)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The race started with a bang as a sea of color rounded the first turn. Rainbow flags draped on the backs of some while most wore their brightest clothing in support. It was not just a run, it was a celebration.

For the hundred plus people who participated in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month 5k and other pride events at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 22, 2018, it was an opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate pride.

“June is a time for us to celebrate our LGBT pride with everyone, not just those within the LGBT community,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Strackbein, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, engineering superintendent. “We wanted to take this opportunity to educate people about who we are and what we stand for.

“A big portion of misunderstanding is the need to dispel stereotypes and misconstrued facts that still exist about our community. We aimed to do that this year by having members from our community share their stories with anyone willing to listen.”

Up until Sept. 20, 2011 when “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” was finally repealed, the LGBT community was forbidden from serving openly in the military. Forced to either not serve or hide a portion of their lives in the shadows, the community was unable to have their voices heard within the military world. It was amid that silence the reality of the LGBT community members just being people with families was blurred.

“Before the repeal of DADT it was undeniably difficult,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Livigni, 730th Air Mobility Squadron passenger service supervisor, who shared his coming-out story with audience members as part of pride month. “I was dating someone and the worst part was I would have to introduce them as my friend if I ever brought them around my coworkers. I hated how unfair it was for my significant other. It made them feel insignificant and I hated having to hide that part of my life.”

Despite the harsh realities of keeping a portion of his life a secret for so long, Livigni unlike many others, still kept his life private even after the repeal.

“It really all changed when I married my husband,” said Livigni. “You always hear people talking about their families at work and they are always so happy in doing so. Eventually I just decided that this is my husband, my family, and I’m not going to hide his existence anymore. He deserved to be talked about for all that he does for me.”

In having that initial discussion with his fellow Airmen Livigni would soon find out how supportive his coworkers could be.

“I was very lucky to have accepting coworkers,” said Livigni. “I’ve seen others not have such a supportive welcome but what really helped us come together is the fact that they made an effort to understand me. A few of them asked me a lot of questions but I think that was a great thing. They made a point to be tactful about it but it really allowed them understand who I am.

“I would encourage anyone who has questioned to ask away. Be respectful about it but ask. I think in doing so you would soon find out we really aren’t that different, we are all humans.”

It is the hope that through the asking and answering of questions that the service members who happen to be a part of the LGBT community can serve without any potential bias.

“At the end of the day I think I can safely say we all just want to be judged based on the work we do,” said Strackbein. “We are proud members of the LGBT community but first and foremost we are Airmen. We proudly serve our nation standing side by side with each and every of our fellow service members. We may all have our differences but our service is our bond. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the events in our celebration of pride.”