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San Diego Veterans Museum Holds First LGBTQ Pride Event

San Diego Veterans Museum Holds First LGBTQ Pride Event
San Diego Veterans Museum Holds First LGBTQ Pride Event GUEST: Kathy Hansen, commander master chief (ret), U.S. Navy

The veterans Museum at Balboa Park is taking an evolutionary step into the modern area of them military. They are hosting its first LGBTQ event , called "Evolution of Change" . It's being promoted as the museum's first annual military pride event. Former and active duty military personal will share their perspective on what the gay in the Armed Forces used to be like and what it's like now. Joining me is one of military pride's guest speakers, command Master chief, Kathy Hansen. She retired from the Navy in 2010, after a 30 year career. Did you ever think the day would come, at the veterans Museum, to have a LGBTQ pride event? I did not. It's amazing. The progress that the Navy and military has made, and just recent years, in the last six years, must be quite something for you. Yes. Don't ask don't tell went away a year after I retired. That was emotional for me, after spending 30 years serving silently. I couldn't go to the first pride parade, it was too emotional for me. There was a huge military contingent. You served, under don't ask don't tell, what was that like? I didn't have an issue, I just put my head down and did my job. Towards the end of my career, was when I started having some issues with it, I've been with my partner today, 18 years. It's our anniversary. Until I became more senior, then it felt like it wasn't really fair to Barb. I was the command chief of the USS Ronald Reagan, I knew everything about my bosses and their families and their kids. Nobody ever asked me anything personal. When I'm in two events, when I got more senior, Barb wouldn't go because it didn't feel safe for us. Towards the end it bothered me. Did you see others that you knew, have basically run into harassment or dismissal because of don't ask don't tell? Probably, before don't ask don't tell, some of my friends were discharged for being gay. Not really, under don't ask don't tell in any of my commands, that I was command chief at, unless they came to us and said they were gay. Then of course, the rule was, we had to discharge them. Meister is different than many others, many others struggled a lot. I just didn't. I don't feel like I hit it, I feel like people knew. It was the elephant in the room. It is a long time, 30 years is a long time to keep such a big part of you, as the elephant in the room, a secret. A secret and I don't even think I knew how much of a told it was taking on me, until I retired and that I was able to say I'm gay. Than a struggled with it, to tell other veterans. I do a lot of volunteer work with the Pearl Harbor survivors, they call me the Pearl Harbor survivor handler. I take them to events and I'm on their board, I worried about telling these 94-year-old men that I'm gay. I have told them many times and they just don't get it. They let me anyway. That was a relief. It's interesting that you point that out, as this event is being held in the veterans Museum, I wonder if you've thought about a whole history, that needs to be uncovered about the gay men and women who served silently, in this country. Absolutely. When I stand in that museum, I'm very proud of them and I think it's very courageous of the whole staff there, to do the celebration, many of the patrons of the veterans Museum are the older generation. It's a great step forward and I'm really proud of everyone there at the Museum. One-story, a Pearl Harbor survivor told me, when he was on the USS San Francisco they took a sailor to mast that they caught with the Marine, in a fan room. They took them to mast on the boat deck in front of the whole crew and they brought the two men's families on board. I said to stoop, how did that make you feel? He said he didn't agree with being gay, however you -- it made me sick to my stomach. It wasn't right to do that. There is a connection and I think about that when I walk into the museum and how many people served in silence before me. We started talking about, we're talking about the huge strides the military is made when it comes to civil rights and gay lesbian rights. Dozens of service members have told their chains of command that they are transgender and waiting for the Pentagon to clarify the policy of how to address transgender troop who might be transitioning. Is this the next civil rights battle for LGBTQ military ? I would say yes. I believe, after my 30 years, it won't be a perfect transition. We are in the forefront of change, whether it was integration or getting rid of don't ask don't tell and transgender will be the next step in the military will take it. There will be a few bumps, people will fall in line and do what they are told to do. It will change the country. I'm wondering, this pride event comes less than two weeks after the Orlando shooting, has that shooting affected you? Absolutely. I actually thought about canceling, speaking at the veterans Museum, because I did feel safe. Suddenly, I felt like I could be walking down the street and reach out to hold hands with my partner and someone could shoot me, just for who I love. It led me to the sphere -- this fear. I heard the editor of Watermark, the gay newspaper, he told a story about when he was a little boy walking home from school and he got shot with a BB gun. His friends called him if I get -- with this voice, 40 years later I feel the same fear. I thought that was so sad and I was feeling the same. For what felt like the first time, then he said, but now even more than ever, we need to stand up and tell our story. When I heard him say that, I knew, that I still needed to speak at the veterans Museum. Are you going to speak about the Orlando shooting? I'm going to open up a something like that. Since she retired what are you doing? A couple months after retirement, getting up and saying what are we going to do today, finally she said by -- find you a job. We own coffee shops. Any advice for young gay or woman entering the service. What would you tell them? It's a great career with great benefits, the G.I. bill is great, no one holds us back but ourselves, put your head down and do your job. Who we love makes no difference to the kind of job we are going to do or the kind of leaders we will be. The event, "Evolution of Change" , the first annual military pride event is being held at the veterans Museum and Balboa Park tonight from 6 PM until 8 PM. I've been speaking with command Master chief Kathy Hansen.

The Veterans Museum in Balboa Park is taking an evolutionary step into the modern era of the military.

The museum is hosting its first LGBTQ event Wednesday. “Evolution of Change” is being promoted as the museum’s first annual LGBTQ military pride event.

Former and active duty military personnel will share their perspective on what being gay in the armed forces used to be like and what it's like today.


In 2010, President Obama ended the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, which banned gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces.

Kathy Hansen, who retired from the U.S. Navy in 2010 and served under the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, is one of the featured speakers.

Hansen discusses the significance of the museum’s first pride event on KPBS Midday Edition Wednesday.