On June 23, the founding members of the LGBTQIAP+ employee association, DHS Spectrum, celebrated the launch of their organization more broadly into the Department of Homeland Security.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony ties in with the DHS’s 2021 Pride Month theme of “Not a Straight Line: The Ebbs and Flows of Progress.”

In accordance, seven DHS members, Chief Michelle Duty, Cdr. Royce James, Ph.D., Lt. John Mack, Petty Officer Derek Smith, Lt. Junior Grade Caleb Tvrdy, Prof. Alex Waid, Ph.D., and Cdr. Kimberly Young-McLear, Ph.D., have been recognized for founding DHS Spectrum — an anti-racist, multicultural, intersectional, and diverse employee association that exists to create and promote “Healthy to Innovate” work environments where all employees can thrive.

“Our purpose is to ensure that everyone can be their authentic selves in the workplace by creating safe spaces for people to serve and work genuinely while also educating others, including allies, on how to actually build these working environments… so everyone can thrive,” Young-McClear told Military Times.

This ribbon cutting ceremony celebrates the group’s progress over the past two years.

DHS Spectrum was founded in May 2019 when these seven members organized a gathering of Coast Guard members for a Pride March.

This resulted in the largest gathering of Coast Guard personnel, with more than 150 Coast Guard cadets and employees of all ranks, marching in New York City.

That day marked the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, where LGBTQIAP+ supporters first advocated for human rights against police brutality at Stonewall Inn.

Every year since, people across nation have come together to acknowledge the historical violence against the LGBTQIAP+ community, identify where change is needed and celebrate the progress made.

The founders of DHS Spectrum hope to continue this legacy. Despite high turnout at the march, the co-founders believe more education is necessary within the LGBTQIAP+ community, as well as for allies.

Over the next two years, the co-founders of DHS Spectrum have created an open and safe community where all are welcomed as their authentic selves. This community has grown to more than 500 members and five geographic chapters, including Alameda, Houston-Galveston, San Diego, Alaska and New Orleans.

This year’s ceremony marked the official launch into the Department of Homeland Security and a commemoration of the group’s effort.

The ribbon was cut at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., with keynote speaker DHS Deputy Chief Human Capitol Officer, Mr. Roland Edwards.

“This is an engaging time for folks to network and mingle and create the tone for how we operate in the Spectrum, which is to take care of one another as a family and always let each other know we are valued and deserve to live and work as our authentic selves,” Young-McClear said. “We think we are onto something really amazing, really good. Working with the DHS allows us a bigger platform to reach out to more people.”

Fellow cofounder, Waid, believes that Spectrum builds community.

“What most excites me about Spectrum is the safety it affords,” he said. “Whenever we are together, it feels like a family reunion. That doesn’t mean everything is 100% perfect all the time, it means that it’s okay when it’s not, because we care about one another and the organization so deeply. We can be fully authentic, we care about one another, we can work together toward our individual and collective successes without putting on any ‘armor.’ In fact, when we get together, we can and we do take off whatever ‘armor’ we walked into the space wearing, knowing that we are in a community of safety, support, and love. It’s really pretty amazing.”

The Spectrum community welcomes people who are dealing with the stigma of HIV/AIDS, are questioning their own gender identity or sexual orientation, survivors of all forms of violence and those that are dealing with isolation from racism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia.

Jack Erwin began at Military Times in June 2021. He is covering news on defense policy, education, foreign affairs with specific implications for the Air Force. Jack is a cadet at the US Air Force Academy, majoring in Humanities with a minor in Philosophy.

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