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What’s the Q?

Staff Sgt. Taylor M. West, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, poses for a photo during an exercise at the Stanford Training Area, Norfolk, England, Feb. 27, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield)

Staff Sgt. Taylor M. West, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, poses for a photo during an exercise at the Stanford Training Area, Norfolk, England, Feb. 27, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --

The hardest part of identifying myself as a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning community was getting over the deep-seated internal need to fit into a certain mold.

As someone who identifies underneath the Queer, “Q” umbrella, I see it as a home for those of us who may not be able to commit to a label of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The Queer identity is rarely highlighted, and there are people that question the validity of someone on their journey of identification. For me, it was when I fell in love with my first girlfriend. I got labeled as someone who was just curious or experimenting.

I believe the word ‘experiment’ in regards to relationships is degrading. I remember feeling angry toward the people who were telling me that what she and I were going through was a just phase or who felt the need to force a label onto our relationship. I was constantly being asked, “You have a girlfriend, does that make you bisexual?” and my immediate reaction was always no, and still is no.

This is why it’s frustrating when I hear people say that the “Q” is an excessive add on. I’ve heard people jokingly say things like, “How many letters are they going to put in there?!” and display a lack of understanding, or even a desire to understand, how the Q can create a sense of security for so many people that don’t feel connected to other labels.

As an Airman, I reached out to some fellow LGBTQ friends I’ve met thus far in my Air Force career about what the Q means to them and got answers varying from Queer, Questioning and Gender Queer, as well as the inclusion of different sexualities such as: Asexual or Pansexual, and so many other sexualities that haven’t been highlighted in mainstream society, yet. Which is, in my eyes, the whole point of the Q.

After my arrival to RAF Lakenheath, I learned about an LGBTQ group that provides an outlet for local military members and their spouses to gather and discuss their personal journey and identity. This group and groups like them from across the Air Force give me hope that the ability to connect with each other, not just as Airmen, but as people, is growing stronger the more time goes on. 

My journey has taught me so many valuable lessons; like the importance of listening, the value of taking the time to understand what is being said, and the acknowledgement that our words, or lack thereof, hold weight.

I am not the subject matter expert on what it is to be Queer or Questioning. My experiences have shaped my identity and I’ve found solace in that. However, I can’t help but think that my journey to where I am today would have been easier if my friends and family would have simply listened to me and stopped telling me how to be and who to be with.

Through my time in the service I have run into brothers and sisters in uniform that have struggled with their own journey, and I have been able to use my past experiences as a way to ensure people know that they are being heard.

The Q means different things to different people, and that’s okay! The only way that we will learn more about what Q means to others who find comfort in it, is to stop questioning them and simply listen.

The phrase “sexuality is a spectrum” is one that I hear and use often. Within that spectrum there is no right or wrong, or black and white. Simply the ability to love.