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NEWS | June 27, 2022

NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity PRIDE event teaches inclusion and allyship

By NSWCDD DNA Public Affairs

“What’s said here stays here, what’s learned here leaves here,” said Mx. Jacob Kelley, instructor and founder of Mx. Kelley Queer Education, LLC, setting the tone for open communication, confidentiality and respect during the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Dam Neck Activity (NSWCDD DNA) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ (LGBTQ+) Pride Month event on June 8. “When people are sharing information with you, take the lesson you’re learning and leave the story for them to tell.” 

The purpose of the event, which was hosted by the NSWCDD DNA Diversity and Inclusion Program, was to educate the workforce and help break down barriers that may impede equal opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Mx. Jacob Kelley, whose pronouns are they/them, was the keynote speaker for this year’s observance. They are a non-binary, queer-inclusive sex educator in the state of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. student studying Human Sexuality Philosophy. Kelley discussed various topics ranging from gender and biological sex to language and allyship.

“Overall, my goal for the presentation was for people to look beyond LGBTQ+ letters and see that people have different biological sex, genders and sexuality. This should not be something that weighs them down because others can’t accept it,” Kelley said. “I also want people to understand that respecting a person is about seeing them as who they are, not how we perceive them—challenging our biases by looking inward instead of projecting outward.”

While Kelley has taught and spoken about these topics for various audiences, this was their first time presenting to a military audience.

“The military is a structured institution that oversees one of the largest diverse populations of people,” Kelley said. “Military members are exposed to different cultures as they meet people around the nation and the globe through their travels and work.”

Kelley said the global nature of military service coupled with the military’s history of excluding members of the LGBTQ+ community, makes queer education critical to creating a better understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The stigma from members who hold ‘traditional’ values shows unconscious biases toward the LGBTQ+ population,” Kelley said. “This type of training allows military members to create solutions and develop inclusive and welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ individuals.” 

Throughout the presentation, Kelley challenged the NSWCDD DNA workforce to expand their understanding of gender and sexual identity, and to recognize and confront personal biases. Kelley also explained the importance of respect and “allyship,” which includes calling out discriminatory behaviors and speaking up on behalf of LGBTQ+ members of the workforce. 

Marcus Matthews, Equal Employment Opportunity specialist and Diversity and Inclusion manager at NSWCDD DNA, said this was a key lesson for him.

“The most important takeaways for me were to check my biases and become a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community,” Matthews said. “We have LGBTQ+ members in our workforce doing amazing work for the warfighters. They’re members of our Navy family, and deserve the same opportunities as everyone else.”

Kelley emphasized that building inclusive teams means recognizing all members of the organization.

“While we may not face the daily discrimination, ignorance and hate others may go through, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Kelley said. “LGBTQ+ matters are not political opinions. We are people. Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action, and our outcome is to belong. Think about how you allow people to belong on your team.”