Breaking Barriers: Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at Fort Hunter Liggett

By Augusta VargasJune 27, 2024

Fort Hunter Liggett celebrates Pride Month
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Guest speaker Andrew Gotmer receives certificate of appreciation during Fort Hunter Liggett’s Pride Month event at the Historic Hacienda, June 13, 2024. (Photo Credit: Ivan Garcia) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Hunter Liggett celebrates Pride Month
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Participants of Fort Hunter Liggett’s Pride Month event at the Historic Hacienda were asked to choose a colored stick to illustrate the workforce diversity and how vibrant the community is with all its colors, June 13, 2024. (Photo Credit: Ivan Garcia) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Hunter Liggett celebrates Pride Month
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Hunter Liggett celebrated Pride Month at the Historic Hacienda with Andrew Gotmer as the guest speaker, June 13, 2024. Pride Month is a nationally recognized observance that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, promoting unity and pride. Gotmer shared insights into his journey as a transgender manas well as his experiences working in the Department of Defense's Child and Youth Services. (Photo Credit: Ivan Garcia) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, JOLON, Calif. - Andrew Gotmer, a dedicated Child and Youth Services (CYS) employee at Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL), embodies the spirit of Pride Month through his journey as a transgender man. His story of resilience, acceptance, and professional growth serves as an inspiration for the LGBTQ+ community within the Department of Defense (DoD).

Gotmer’s path to FHL began in Monterey, California, where he spent his formative years until 2020. He moved to Los Angeles after his high school graduation, a city known for its cultural diversity and vibrant LGBTQ+ community. Reflecting on his time there, Gotmer recalls, "Every year, L.A. has a huge Pride celebration. Everybody's really open and accepting in L.A. I was even the Resident Assistant for the gender-inclusive housing down there, so I came from living in the middle of the Queer community to FHL. It was definitely a transition."

Despite the challenges of adjusting to a different environment, Gotmer found that the majority of people at FHL supported his transition with fairness and respect. "Most people, within the first or second time of me telling them who I am, are able to start to make that switch, and it's definitely affirming for people to be able to do that and to support me."

The DoD's theme for Pride Month is "Pride in all who serve, a place for all." "To me, it means that everyone, regardless of their identity, has a place in the DoD. The Army's efforts to create an inclusive environment have been both inspiring and validating for me. It's a symbol of recognition and a sign of good faith because they are trying to acknowledge the diversity that they have within their ranks," said Gotmer.

Gotmer’s desire to work in business administration and his experience working with children sparked a long-term aspiration to work within the DoD, particularly in Child and Youth Services. Starting as a Child and Youth Program Assistant, he quickly advanced to an Administrative Support Assistant in CYS within six months, demonstrating his dedication and skills. His commitment has opened doors to leadership training opportunities with the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) in San Antonio, Texas.

Gotmer also hopes to see more inclusivity and ease for transgender employees and soldiers within the DoD. He highlighted challenges like changing one's name to one's preferred name and gender marker on official documents. "Currently, you must identify as your legal name, whatever's on your birth certificate. It appears in the global address list, your email, and other paperwork. This can be very difficult for transgender employees and soldiers,” said Gotmer.

During his speech June 13 FHL Pride Month event, he explained that the LGBTQ+ community refers to their legal name as their ‘dead name’ as it refers to the gender that they no longer identify with. “I hope that one day we'll be able to transition from this, perhaps allowing preferred names to be used on more documentation,” said Gotmer.

Offering advice to LGBTQ+ individuals considering a career in the DoD, Andrew emphasized the importance of openness and communication. "Be open and communicate as best you can with your coworkers," he advised. "It's about fostering understanding and mutual respect. Embrace who you are and bring your whole self to your service."

Looking forward, Andrew is focusing on becoming a Functional Technology Specialist within the DoD. "I plan to continue my education and professional development, contributing further to CYS and the broader military community," said Gotmer. His recent leadership training in San Antonio equips him with valuable skills and connections that supports his aspirations.

Gotmer's journey exemplifies the Army's commitment to diversity and inclusivity. His story underscores the power of acceptance and its positive impact on the military community. As Pride Month is celebrated, his experiences remind us of the importance of embracing and supporting all who serve, fostering an environment where everyone can thrive.