Being your Authentic Self

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Trevor Gordnier
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When U.S. Air Force Capt. H. Marleen Johnson, 51st Medical Group public health element chief, joined the military, she was worried if she would be accepted as a queer service member.

“I grew up in Missouri and came out as part of the LGBTQ+ community in high school,” said Marleen. “Kids can be cruel and the experiences I had jaded my perspective on how people viewed and treated the queer community.”

Queer is an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender.

“It's a fluid thing however it is commonly used as an all-encompassing term for LGBTQ+”

Upon completing college, Marleen took the next step of her career by joining the Air Force and attending Officer Training School (OTS). Despite her fears of being rejected, she decided to be her authentic self.

“My instructor went around the room to ask people about their backgrounds and stories,” explained Marleen.“I timidly told them I had a partner, then I paused and looked around the room at my classmates wondering their reactions. My instructor replied ‘Okay, and what else about you?’ like it was nothing strange.”

“In that moment, and ever since, all of my experiences within the Air Force have been incredibly positive,” she added, “I have grown to see a different, kinder side of humanity and what America stands for”

Marleen is currently serving her fourth year in the military and actively participates in multiple LGBTQ+ programs on base and collaborates with the Air Force Medical Service’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a board member.

“Inclusion is being invited to the party and not being judged when you start dancing on the dance floor,” said Marleen. “You just want to feel like you can bring your authentic self to work - and I think sometimes it's challenging - but it's definitely what the Air Force is working towards.”

“I am very thankful I can bring my authentic self to work every day and show people it’s okay to be different,” she concluded. “I have a lot of pride in being a queer person but it’s a small part of who I am and what makes me unique.”