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News | July 2, 2015

SECDEF Chief of Staff: Live honestly, openly

By DIA Public Affairs

Chief of Staff for the Secretary of Defense Eric Fanning spoke to Defense Intelligence Agency employees June 24 about the immense changes he’s seen in the LGBT environment at the Department of Defense over the past 20 years.

Visiting as a part of DIA’s Pride Month observance, Fanning focused on the evolution and current environment in the Department of Defense today, and on the importance of being “out” at work and the impact that has on culture.

While acknowledging there are challenges, “there is a much larger community out there that is looking for opportunities to show its support of us — that’s certainly been my experience as I’ve come out in my professional network, and it’s picking up steam,” Fanning said. “It’s gone from tolerance to acceptance to embrace.”

When Fanning came out in 1993 while working for the secretary of defense at the Pentagon, he said he felt like the only one in the 25,000-person building. He knew there were others, but if you were in uniform, you couldn’t expose yourself as gay because you’d be discharged, and there were no other openly gay political appointees.

“Today, there is a caucus there, and now there is support for all of us,” he said. “We have this community of support whenever we try to do anything or put ourselves forward.”

Fanning also noted how Pride Month celebrations within DoD have evolved as well.

“To walk through your lobby here and to see the displays you’ve put up and to see how it’s being embraced and celebrated is truly a remarkable experience for me to see,” Fanning said.