TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – President Joe Biden proclaimed June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Pride Month for the United States. The Department of Defense recognizes and celebrates the contributions service members of the LBGTQ+ community bring to the fight.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Natalie Proctor, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, and a South Carolina native, sat down to discuss her life experience announcing she is gay in the South, her religious upbringing and what having a diverse group of Airmen can do to strengthen and make the mission more efficient.
How do you contribute to the mission at Travis AFB, Air Mobility Command and the USAF?
Proctor: As a loadmaster I help provide unrivaled strategic airlift, safely and professionally—which supports AMC’s core mission of rapid global mobility. Being a loadmaster, I am responsible for loading that cargo safely, and making sure it gets to its destination in a timely manner.
How long have you been in the Air Force and what do you enjoy most about your career?
Proctor: I have been in the Air Force a little over three years now and with being aircrew, travel is by far my favorite. I get the privilege to see and experience different cultures from all over the world.
Where are you from and what life experience do you bring to the USAF?
Proctor: I am from Saluda, South Carolina, originally, but spent a lot of time in Clemson after graduating from there. I have had jobs with a lot of supervising experience, worked with many partnerships over the years and with those experiences—building relationships come naturally. In return, those relationships help with the job to build partnerships to help the mission excel around the globe.
Growing up in the South, do you feel like your lifestyle and the culture you bring to the USAF is any different than anyone else?
Proctor: Growing up in South Carolina, I learned how to work hard, I grew up in church and learned family values. I was raised Pentecostal and, even though I was still figuring out my sexuality at a young age, I never steered away from church. After college, I joined a church who accepted me for my sexuality and loved me unconditionally. To this day, they are still my biggest supporters and will always be family. I believe we all have a story when it comes to how we were raised or our stories on religion and what we bring to the table. That’s what makes the USAF amazing is the differences and how we can bring all of our differences to the table.
Can you share a story where your experience and lifestyle has helped move the USAF mission forward?
Proctor: I wouldn’t say I have a specific experience, I am professional at work, on social media and to the world. I have never hidden who I am nor will I ever. Hiding never helps move equality forward. Being who I am at work or on the road opens myself up for questions from other service members genuinely wanting to know how they can be better allies and Airmen in this growing world. I have never been the one to turn someone away from asking questions even if they are difficult or sensitive. I try to stay vulnerable because being vulnerable is a way to grow.
Why is it important the DoD & USAF recognize and celebrate Pride?
Proctor: Recognizing Pride is a part of recognizing all service members. Simply put, it’s not up for debate. Each one of us are willing to sacrifice our lives to serve this country and moving the mission forward. That includes the LGBTQ+ community.
What challenges do the LGBTQ+ community face in the military and how can an ally help with those challenges?
Proctor: It’s hard to speak for everyone about every challenge because I’ve been blessed with an amazing squadron, or you could say they are family, I have at the 22nd. I’ve never been treated differently for my age, sex or sexual orientation. Nonetheless, that’s something we can take as a positive and use as the standard. I’ve heard stories from friends, other Airmen in the community, who are not being treated in the same aspect as me. They are looked at as “less than” or questioned because of different lifestyle choices. But obtaining the standard of equality across the board is a step. We no longer live in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” military, but we can’t stop just there. We should continue the fight for diversity, equity and inclusion within our force.