“I’m overjoyed to know that more service members are able to be their authentic selves and serve our country,” said Captain Sarah Caine, the chaplain for 2-6 Cavalry Squadron, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii.
As we celebrate Pride Month, we must remember that it wasn’t always acknowledged as a celebration. On June 28, 1969 the Stonewall riots began a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ+ community in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. A year later, the first Pride parade was held at Stonewall in the fight for LGBT rights in the United States. It celebrates the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and it cheers on the LGBTQ+ service members who are now allowed to serve as their authentic self.
Chaplain Capt. Sarah Caine explains why Pride Month matters to her as a Soldier and in general.
“Pride Month is important to me as a person and as a Soldier because it celebrates the work that has been done, the sacrifices made to be able to live life authentically and without fear. The work is not finished, so telling the histories of the diverse people within the LGBTQIA2S (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two Spirit, and many other identities) family is important as a constant reminder of why we continue to rise up to rectify the inequalities experienced by many.”
“Life is a constant flux between celebration, grieving, and working for the betterment of the world and our communities. It would be a great joy for me if we no longer needed special months to tell these stories and celebrate the victories, if we were just able to weave the complex truth of the many histories in our world into a narrative that acknowledged how different social, economic, geographic, and other locations impacted experiences. It’s not just one simple story, it’s many voices, and right now- some are amplified while others are muted.”
“Personally, while I was discerning my call to military chaplaincy (2013-2016 in seminary), I had no idea what the gender of my possible future spouse would be, and I was relieved that DADT was repealed in 2010. As a bi person in ministry, I have always been grateful that my faith tradition (Unitarian Universalist) celebrates LGBTQ+ identities. I could only imagine serving in a military that did the same.”
“I heard stories from congregants and colleagues who served while DADT was in place and the strain it put on being able to be honest with fellow service members. They couldn’t talk about the person who was most important to them, or they risked being fired. It’s just heartbreaking.”
“Now, with the repeal on the ban on transgender people serving openly, I’m overjoyed to know that more service members are able to be their authentic selves and serve our country. I believe God delights in people being honest, compassionate, and fully flourishing-- and I have seen the life-saving reality of accepting and affirming the identities of LGBTQ+ people, even something as simple as using correct pronouns.”
Chaplain Caine explains why she thinks our differences make us a stronger Army.
“America is a diverse place. Having the different experiences honored means that we are able to be more creative, and more able to respond to reality and not be boxed-in to one way of thinking. In addition, acceptance of gender identities and sexual orientations, racial diversity, heritage, and all the beautiful ways we are different, that’s life saving. It’s suicide prevention. Instead of adding burdens to people trying to do their jobs well by making them silent about who their spouse is or what pronouns they use, we are saying, ‘We will evaluate you by how you live the Army Values and how you do your job. We’re glad you chose to raise your hand and serve. You belong in this Army.’”
Chaplain Sarah Caine would like to add that she is relaunching a chapel service that is fully LGBTQ+ affirming and celebrating! It’s focused on spiritual themes but doesn’t require a specific faith background or any faith background.
“I use my experience working in pluralistic (many faiths) communities to make the service open to atheists and theists alike. We’ll be meeting the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month at Wheeler Chapel (specific day TBD). My plan is to have the 1st week of the month be my intro into one way to engage the spiritual theme of the month and the 3rd week of the month will be collaborative where participants can share ways they engaged with the theme, music, readings, reflections, all that good stuff. I have my previous talks up on the Facebook page: facebook.com/SoulfulSchofield.”
“If people are looking for religious communities that will love and accept them, I’m happy to be a resource! I know some installations have Open Table services, which are fully welcoming of LGBT folks, there are some affirming Jewish services as well, and pagan circles tend to be inclusive. I don’t have a comprehensive list, but I will do what I can to find ways to help you nourish your spiritual side.”