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Creating True Identity

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicole Molignano
  • Seventh Air Force Public Affairs

The month of June is recognized as Pride Month; commemorating the sacrifices the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community have made throughout history. 

Numerous LGBTQ Airmen have bravely served and defended their country long before they were allowed to do so openly. As for Master Sgt. Linwood Cypress, 8th Health Care Operations Squadron superintendent, nine years of his military career was spent in disguise. 

In October of 2002, Cypress joined the Air Force to become a Security Forces defender. At that time, it was banned for members of the gay community to serve openly in the armed forces. It wasn’t until mid-2011 that President Barack Obama announced the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ending years of secrecy and silence for lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the U.S. military. 

“Security Forces was very difficult for me; I was not comfortable being myself in that career field,” Cypress stated. “I didn’t feel like I could be myself until I cross-trained into the medical career field in 2006.” 

Cypress explains that he was aware of his sexuality at a very young age, but then he was thrown into a very male dominated career field and he didn’t see any outlet where he could express himself fully. 

“I thought I would have a target on my back if I showed a side that was too feminine.” Cypress said.  

He would continue to serve an additional five years hiding. Once the repeal was passed down via an official memorandum, Cypress’ supervisor directly e-mailed him with a subject line of “this is for you.” 

“When he sent that to me, it was an overwhelming experience,” Cypress said. “The fact that my work family accepted me and celebrated me before this repeal and after the fact, meant the world to me.”

After completing almost 50 percent of a typical military career, Cypress explains that it took him a while to adjust to being completely true to himself, even after the repeal. 

“I still felt like that was my private life and not something I wanted to reveal completely yet,” he said. 

Something that was once considered taboo, to all of a sudden being accepted by every force, felt like a scary transition. Yet, Cypress continued to stay true to himself which would only serve him as a means to becoming stronger. 

“Now, I celebrate me in all facets of life,” he said. “My professional life and my personal life. It didn’t feel real to me until I put on master sergeant last year in Aviano.” 

Cypress explained that it was the first Air Force event he brought a date. 

“My induction ceremony meant the world to me,” Cypress said. “It was a huge milestone to be able to openly bring a date for the first time in my career.” 

He said he always wanted his peers to look at him from a professional stand point as opposed to being judged by his private life. 

“I always knew I carried myself in a way to be respected regardless of my sexuality,” he said. “When it comes to different individuals in our community, we can all be celebrated in a professional and respectful manner.”

As the Armed Forces continues to make strides towards a more inclusive force, it is important to recognize diversity on a multitude of levels. 

“Everyone needs to feel included,” Cypress said. “We’re already have a diverse force just from coming from different backgrounds, but it’s the inclusion piece we need to work on. We’re getting there. Just by sharing experiences with one another, it allows us to have these discussions that are becoming normalized.”

The commitment to service the LGBTQ community has made continues to make the Air Force stronger, and the nation safer. Their courage and the sacrifices made along the way add to the inclusivity and rich diversity of the Air Force family.


Courtesy of the Seventh Air Force Diversity and Inclusion Council