TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — Jaye Hurt knew Travis Air Force Base’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community had issues, but not like this.
Hurt reaches behind her door and holds up a wad of blue construction paper nearly 6 inches in diameter, a collection of sheets that she said, if placed end-to-end, could line the hallway of Travis’ expansive Airman and Family Readiness Center where she works.
The sheets are from a focus group that took place on base in October 2013. The members of the group wrote down issues they felt faced them as a community, as members of the Air Force and in their lives.
What emerged, too, was the desire to form a private organization. In February, the LGBT Alliance emerged, composed of members of the Travis community.
Despite its name, the group is open to those who fall anywhere along the sexuality and gender spectrums.
Hurt, in her role as community readiness consultant at the readiness center, helped host the focus group as well as get the alliance off the ground. However, as a straight woman, despite having friends and acquaintances among the LGBT community, she admits she knew little about the issues before helping form the group.
“I’ve learned so much,” she said. “Sometimes, I put my foot in my mouth, but they help me out.”
Hurt has become involved in the alliance and its programs, posting its events on the door to her office and attending its bimonthly meetings.
The 23-year government employee now considers herself what the LGBT community calls a “straight ally,” someone who supports the movement’s social and political agenda.
Hurt said hearing the stories of service members and their struggles to come out of the closet as well as fight for equality has “made (her) even more compassionate.”
“Some of their stories are pretty painful,” she said. “It helps you understand that people are people. These are wonderful airmen. It’s important to accept people for who they are.”
Still, Hurt sees the struggles of the group’s members and knows that some of them remain in the closet due to fears about how the news will be received by their families or how it may affect their jobs.
“It’s a humongous burden,” she said.
Hurt said the alliance is gaining traction among the military. She’s received calls from leaders at other bases asking for more information about the group’s formation and function.
“Word of the success of the group has spread to bases as far away as Washington state and Florida,” said Tom Bradley, Airman and Family Readiness Center chief, in nominating her for an award earlier this year. “Others are trying to replicate the success of the Travis experiment. . . . What will never be replicated is the amazing personality and unmatched work ethic of Mrs. Hurt. The LGBT group is just one of the irons she has in the fire to make Travis the best assignment in the Air Force.”
Hurt recently received the 2014 National Image Inc. meritorious service award for Air Mobility Command – the Air Force’s unifying agency under which Travis falls – for which Bradley nominated her. The award acknowledges the accomplishments of military members and civilian employees who demonstrate the values of their branch of the service.
For her part, Hurt said she hopes people keep an open mind about the group and the members of its community.
“We all have prejudices,” she said. “I think as people become more knowledgeable, it helps them not be so threatened. It happens in small steps.”
Reach Nick DeCicco at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.