As we move past a tumultuous couple of years, it is important to emphasize gratitude, community, and authenticity this holiday season. Growing up, I remember having a debate within myself. Despite having a passion for flying in Piper Cubs, Ercoupes, and Navions in my EAA Chapter, I would deliberate the same question: Can I have a career in aviation while being an openly gay man? There was a perceived separation between who I was and my intended career. That question was ultimately answered, obviously and resoundingly, when I found the right community.
I have met some of my closest friends and have enjoyed both professional and recreational opportunities as a member of NGPA. With the help of the NGPA Tailwheel Scholarship, I even had the chance to log time in a UPF7 Waco owned by another NGPA member at Moraine Airpark in Dayton, Ohio. Not only can I have an aviation career as an openly gay man, but by embracing who I am, I have found opportunities I couldn’t imagine! For this, I am so thankful.
The work that NGPA does to BUILD, SUPPORT, and UNITE the LGBTQ aviation community is hugely important. To build community is to create a sense of belonging. Finding my community at the local level was paramount to my journey. And as a CFI, I know that a first impression can often predict a student’s flight training retention. Similarly, an individual’s first engagement with a local airport community can predict their willingness to get started in aviation. How can we genuinely build, support, and unite the LGBTQ aviation community if that individual feels unwelcome? The importance of local NGPA Chapters is undeniable.
So, as we go through the holiday season, wherever and however that may occur for you, I challenge you to embrace gratitude and transition it into action. What can you do to build community and authenticity in your life? Whether it is within your NGPA Chapter, a charity, or your local airport, is there someone you can pay it forward to?
I hope you all have a happy holiday and a prosperous and healthy New Year as your most authentic selves, both in the air and on the ground.