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NSWC Dahlgren Division LGBT Pride Month Inaugural Speaker – “Honoring Diversity Solves Problems and Creates Innovative Products”

| July 28, 2015

DAHLGREN, Va. - Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) recognized Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month with guest speaker Amanda Simpson Army Office of Energy Initiatives executive Director, July 24.


The observance, held at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren base theater, inspired personnel to create a culture of inclusion.


"I am happy now that the Department of Defense (DoD) formally recognizes that everyone has something to offer regardless of sexual orientation," said NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Brian Durant, in his opening remarks.


Durant shared a personal experience during his early years in the Navy where he observed inequality due to sexual orientation. He witnessed peers with the potential to be great leaders leave the Navy because they could not be who they really were.


The NSWCDD Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office and DoD's goal is to provide opportunities for everyone, military and civilian, to recognize the importance of diversity within the DoD workforce.


"It is an honor to be your inaugural speaker," said Simpson at the first NSWCDD LGBT Pride Month Observance. "These kinds of dialogs were not possible a decade ago."


Established in 2009 for the month of June, LGBT Pride Month promotes and encourages a celebration of honesty and openness within the LGBT community.


The LGBT movement was later strengthened by the repeal of the 2011 Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act creating a landmark for our country's service members and allowing gay, lesbian and bisexuals to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces.


The audience, comprising military members, government civilians and contractors, listened to Simpson present her theme - "To see beyond the obvious and go beyond the unwritten rule".


She explained: "Unwritten rules are the hardest to change, and they affect nearly every decision that we make."


Society reinforces these unwritten rules, the Special Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy, and Environment) pointed out.


"There's news programming, and themes of movies and advertising," she explained, adding that, "It is all about teaching us the rules they want us to follow."


Simpson recounted that she developed skills as an engineer, flight instructor and program manager but didn't lose those skills as a transgender person. On the contrary, she was more effective once she could work and live as her authentic self.


"It is a matter of authenticating and personal integrity," said Simpson, emphasizing that diversity of thought and background must also be embraced. "Failure to do so limits our capability to do great things."


Reflecting on the reason she was willing to go through the pain of the publicity and embarrassment of parodies of her on talk shows, Simpson affirmed that, "to be authentic to who I am, I had to change the rules."


We can honor diversity by looking closely at who we turn to for advice and who gets the good assignments, said Simpson. 


People practice the unconscious rule of choosing people who look and act like themselves, she explained. Unconsciously, our logic tells us that we want to be around people who are like us because there is a better chance that they will agree with us. But what we really need is someone with a different view to solve the problems and create innovative products.

Simpson said she intentionally reaches out to all types of diverse groups - by race, creed, and minority groups. 


"Our common bond of freedom unites us all," she said, adding that LGBT society has something to share with each group and each group contributes to the LGBT society. 


Earlier this year, revisions to the DoD military equal opportunity policy were completed, updating the policy to include sexual orientation, and compelling the DoD to hold the standard of treating sexual-orientation-based discrimination equal to the discrimination of race, religion, color, sex, age and national origin.


"All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation," quoted from President Barack Obama's presidential proclamation May 29. "During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy (that) LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation."