LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – “I knew from the time I used to be 11 and would pray that I’d get up in a male physique so my life would make extra sense,” stated Employees Sgt. KC Zens, 372nd Coaching Squadron Detachment 12 F-35A Lightning II avionics teacher.
Zens is a son, a husband, an Airman, and trains tech faculty Airmen to keep up the avionics programs within the Air Pressure’s fifth technology fighter plane at Luke Air Pressure Base, Arizona. It’s a lengthy journey for anybody to get the place Zens has along with his profession, however he confronted a good larger hurdle. Whereas serving on energetic obligation, Zens transitioned from a feminine physique to a physique that displays the gender he identifies with. This didn’t come with out challenges.
In his private life, Zens felt that individuals turned way more accepting when he was in a position to “move” as male on the finish of his transition. Some relationships had been even severed when he got here out to his household and buddies.
“Whereas I perceive that each particular person has to choose for their very own psychological well being and wellbeing, it does make me unhappy to lose these relationships,” stated Zens. “I’ll say that my very own psychological well being has improved drastically since I started my transition. I’ve at all times been a reasonably fun-loving and easygoing particular person, however now I’m far more assured and certain of myself.”
He’s been within the U.S. Air Pressure for the final 9 years and has been at Luke AFB for the final six. His experiences have given him a novel perspective on how members of the LGBTQ+ group not solely deal with army life, however flourish in it.
“From my perspective, one of the best ways LGBTQ members might be supported is to be revered,” stated Zens. “After I meet somebody and so they discover out that I’m transgender, I’m not seeking to change anybody’s views or opinions; I’m in search of them to respect me as an equal human being.”
Over the course of his transition, Zens has seen the impression of his gender id in his service and in his present private life.
“I got here out as trans in 2017,” stated Zens. “Whereas some have averted me when discussing the subject, others have confided in me or requested questions, which I believe has helped inform many individuals a few matter that the majority don’t know so much about.”
For a lot of coworkers, his gender id by no means even got here to thoughts in his skilled life. As a substitute, it was his character that got here first.
“After I met him, he was simply one other man within the Air Pressure,” stated U.S. Air Pressure Tech Sgt. Robert Shilander, 372nd TRS DET 12 F-16/F-35 weapons teacher. “I believe [sometimes] the army attracts individuals who aren’t essentially pleasant first. It’s a job that’s intrinsically a warfighting drive. Discovering people who find themselves form, as part of who they’re, is an enormous deal [within the military]. Being form, good and beneficiant, is [Zens’] defining traits. When you want one thing, he’s going to assist out or discover somebody who can.”
Although his journey was not with out hardships, it was stunning to him that so many members of his management had been there to assist him – even the management in his spouse’s chain of command took steps to make sure the method moved as easily as doable.
“I’ve been in a position to mentor 5 transgender members of the army at Luke and different bases, attributable to all events being open with their management,” stated Zens. “One [former] coworker turned an NCO in cost and ended up with a transgender troop at one other base throughout the nation. He reached out and I used to be in a position to assist that particular person attain out to the suitable businesses. Whereas being fearful is comprehensible, you may’t get assist if folks don’t know you want it.”
Simply as Zens acknowledges what the Air Pressure has performed for him, these round him have seen his braveness as effectively.
“I believe he’s extremely courageous,” stated Shilander. “He got here out in a gaggle he didn’t know. When there are folks [who] are towards who he’s as an individual, [Zens’] acknowledged, ‘it doesn’t matter, I’m going to face up, be who I’m and keep true to myself.’ That’s arduous for anybody to do and he’s on the market telling his story.”
There are various companies that the army gives Airmen, together with, however not restricted to, gender affirmation surgical procedure.
“[In the military] most individuals don’t notice what’s being performed for us,” stated Zens. “There are such a lot of gender reaffirming surgical procedures and procedures that the army has supplied for years and can be found to transgender service members.”
Though Zens acknowledges being a part of the LGBTQ+ group whereas within the army can include some distinctive challenges, he nonetheless encourages Airmen to not be afraid to hunt assist when wanted.
“Whilst you might not have the ability to inform somebody is transgender by them, know that you just’re not alone,” stated Zens. “When you’ve simply come out far-off from residence and really feel such as you don’t have anybody, search assist. This may occasionally sound apparent, however so many LGBTQ+ members really feel the identical method. Listening to that somebody helps them may save somebody’s life.”