LAAFB Shows its True Colors: Proud of All Who Serve – A Place for All

  • Published
  • By Alanna Sakamoto

Violent protests erupted as gay activists fought for basic human rights during the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Almost 55 years later, we commemorate those efforts that led us into an era of acceptance for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, queer and other (LGBTQ+) community. Space Base Delta 3 (SBD 3) showed that Los Angeles Air Force Base is a place for all and proud of all who serve, while hosting four Pride month events in June.

For one event coordinator, Capt. Joi Renee Athanaxay, Group Practice Manager for the 61st Medical Squadron, the celebrations hold a deep meaning. “Being gay is not a lifestyle; it’s a part of me. So being able to celebrate the person I love and the person that I am is a great opportunity…not just to be tolerated but accepted by the community."

Airmen and Guardians enjoyed rainbow colored spaghetti and cupcakes at the kick-off on June 4. Participants could spin a wheel and win prizes for correctly answering trivia questions, like when did the Biden administration sign additional LGBTQ+ protections into law, which just happened in April 2024. Athanaxay acknowledges that there’s been a lot of progress, but there’s still much to learn.  “With the military … it’s a whole melting pot of different kinds of people. Being able to educate and have those conversations at those tables that make actual systemic changes within the military…it’s very important for us [the LGBTQ+ community] to know we’re seen and heard.”

Vibrant rainbow dust filled the morning air on June 12, as volunteers showered runners with color powder on the LA AFB track. The Pride 5K run symbolized freedom of identity for Athanaxay who grew up a military brat.  At the time the, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was repealed, Athanaxay was relieved the military would accept her… as she was learning to accept herself.  She joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in college and followed her father’s footsteps serving her country. “With the progress that has been done,” she expressed, “it’s fantastic, to see the celebrations get bigger and bigger every year.”

The LA AFB Soccer Field looked festive with pride flags hanging from trees for the Pride Block Party on June 21. Colorful popsicles were a welcome treat on that warm day as a competitive dart game ensued; people who were able to burst the most colorful balloons on a dart board won Starbucks gift cards and candy.

SBD 3 personnel displayed their skills, singing and dancing in a talent show, and performed a lively Zumba routine to ‘Beautiful People’ at the Pride Month Finale on June 27. In his opening remarks, SBD 3 Commander Col. Andrew Dermanoski stated, “I am steadfast in my resolve to uphold the rights of LGBTQ+ members, nurture a sense of community and connectedness, and strengthen access to support agencies and resources.”

Dermanoski then acknowledged the significant contributions of LGBTQ+ service members and the sacrifices they have made; emphasizing they are all integral parts of the unified team.

Athanaxay reminds us that continuing to celebrate Pride month is significant because, “there are still people and military members who aren’t comfortable with their sexuality, so public celebrations of who we are gives them and everyone a chance to see that it is ok to be who you are, and it is ok to love the person that you love.”

To see pictures from the events this year, please visit SBD 3’s Flickr at the following link: