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Navy Holds First Official LGBT Pride Event On West Coast

Photo caption:

Photo by Tarryn Mento

The flier for the LGBT Pride event at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, June 30, 2015.

The event comes less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be legal, but an organizer said she worked for years to get it approved.

At Naval Air Station North Island on Tuesday, there was live music, colorful cupcakes and portraits of gay, lesbian, and transgender veterans who served under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law.

The entertainment, treats and display were part of the base's first LGBT Pride event. A Navy Fleet Readiness Center Southwest spokesman said the Navy celebration is the first of its kind on the West Coast.

The event comes less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be legal, but organizer and Navy veteran Lisa Kove said she worked for years to get it approved.

“In 2002, I wanted to have a pride on this base to raise awareness for people to see the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people as people. Just that simple," Kove said. "But during that time, there was Don't Ask, Don't Tell in place, so I wasn’t allowed to do it."

But nearly four years after the law that banned openly gay personnel from serving in the military was formally repealed, Kove was able to pull it off.

Kove said the event is particularly significant because of where it was being held on the North Island station in Coronado.

"We are having it at the auditorium owned by the admiral in charge of Naval Air Forces, and they run literally all the ships and aviation and aircraft people, and also the maintenance to keep naval aviation up in the air and flying and able and ready to do its mission," she said. "So this is really an operational setting, and that is very significant. This is not an office setting."

In the auditorium, a panel of LGBT rights activists took the mic to share their stories. The speakers included transgender retired Army Col. Sheri Swokowski, who served 35 years in the military.

Swokowski said she didn’t transition until she retired in 2004, but even then she was fired from her government contracting job. She found another but said the public may not know a lot about transgendered people, which can translate into fear.

“It’s very important for us to tell our stories and educate and inform people so we can stop the bullying and the harassment and the violence that leads to these transgender suicides," Swokowski said.

Three San Diego County transgender teens have committed suicide this year.

The event drew a few dozen attendees, including some in uniform. Organizers said they hope for a larger turnout when they bring the event back again next year.

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Photo of Tarryn Mento

Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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