Yokota Air Base, Japan --
Through the leadership of one, and the hard work of many, Airmen from Team Yokota were able to show the symbolism of one community on Yokota Air Base of coming together in acceptance and equality.
Senior Airman Kayla Hayes, 374th Maintenance Squadron non-destructive inspection journeyman, is an active part of Yokota’s community through taking on roles such as Honor Guard, head of logistics for Martin Luther King Day, teaching diversity to students across the world through the University of Maryland University College with her wife Master Sgt. Candice Hayes, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron cargo movement section chief, and is an active member of the Yokota Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender private organization where she helps plan and run fundraisers and activities.
Recently Kayla acted as the wing LGBT Pride Observance Committee chairman and organized Yokota’s second annual LGBT Pride Month events.
“Family, love, acceptance and equality is what the LGBT community represents,” said Kayla.
LGBT pride events are a relatively new part of the Air Force. The first official Department of Defense LGBT pride event was only five years ago, two years after ‘Don’t ask Don’t Tell,’ was repealed.
“She is a perfectionist and ensures everything needed to get done is done,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Jean, 374th Airlift Wing Legal Office defense paralegal and secretary for the Yokota LGBT private organization. “She takes on a lot of the burdens of organizing the events.”
Although Kayla is active in many roles on base she is most dedicated to educating people about the LGBT community.
“One day we won’t have to teach people about LGBT families, one day all the different types of families will be accepted as normal.” Said Kayla. “But unfortunately, we are not there yet.”
According to Hayes, the LGBT community still has a stigma surrounding it which makes many people uncomfortable. She believes that through educating people on how LGBT families are just like any other, it will help people to accept and embrace other non-traditional family types.
Most of the event goers were not LGBT, but supporters of the community who had family, friends, or acquaintances of someone who is part of the LGBT community and wanted to show their support.
“The biggest issue we have is people think the LGBT community is only for LGBT people,” said Jean. “You do not have to be LGBT to come to a LGBT event and going to an event does not make you LGBT.”
The events Hayes organized as part of LGBT Pride month focused on educating base personnel on the LGBT community in military and non-military life. Members of the LGBT community made informational multi-media pieces to be displayed at the events and ranged in topics from: LGBT rights through history, influential members in the LGBT community, miscellaneous facts, a glossary of LGBT terms, coming out stories and much more.
The LGBT Pride BBQ event consisted of performances from various base groups including the Yokota Samurai Daiko and multiple youth dance groups. The event also included a bouncy castle and multi-colored powdered paint for the kids to play with. The events were family oriented and brought together over 170 members of Team Yokota.
In 2014 Osan Air Base, South Korea, held an LGBT pride event where Kayla met her wife Candice.
“She was on the event planning committee,” said Kayla. “We met and started dating, we have been together ever since and we’ll be celebrating our three year wedding anniversary this year.”
According to Hayes, strengthening and accepting diversity in the military is a key component to ensuring a strong and well-rounded community.
“I love my life and my wife,” said Kayla. “I just want to thank all the people who have helped and sacrificed so much to make all this possible.”
For more information about Yokota’s LGBT community search Yokota LGBT on Facebook and when asked make sure to say how you are associated with Yokota Air Base.