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Pride in authenticity

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Boudreau, 81st Medical Group mental health technician, poses for a photo at Keesler Medical Center on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 22, 2021. Boudreau revealed to his parents that he is pansexual when he was in sixth grade, and approximately a year ago, informed them he is also transgender. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly L. Mueller)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Boudreau, 81st Medical Group mental health technician, poses for a photo at Keesler Medical Center on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 22, 2021. Boudreau revealed to his parents that he is pansexual when he was in sixth grade, and approximately a year ago, informed them he is also transgender. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly L. Mueller)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

“It's tough to tell family anything, it doesn't matter which letter of LGBTQ+ you identify as,” said Senior Airman Ryan Boudreau, 81st Medical Group mental health technician.

“I found the hardest part for me was telling my mother and father. I told them I like girls and my mom said, ‘No you don’t, you love Zac Efron,’ and I replied, ‘I love Zach Efron too!’” he said.

Boudreau’s parents were shocked to hear he was pansexual when he was in sixth grade, but when he revealed he was transgender last year after joining the military, they were nothing short of accepting.

“This department has an open door to any qualified American who wants to serve. And that's a matter of both national principle and national security,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, in a DoD news release. “Diversity throughout the force is a source of strength, so we can't afford to deprive ourselves of the talents and the voices of the full range of the nation that we defend.”

This month, the Air Force and Department of Defense join the nation in celebrating the LGBTQ+ community for Pride Month. During this month and through the year, DoD recognizes LGBTQ+ Service members and civilians for their dedication to the DoD mission and to our nation.

“My mother told me not to tell anybody when she found out I was moving away,” said Boudreau. “She was worried I was going to get hurt, but my command and coworkers have been completely supportive and I have a badge with my preferred pronouns on it.”

Boudreau said despite having the identifying badge, he still has patients that address him by feminine pronouns, which is mentally exhausting for him.

“I don’t get mad at people for not knowing, I just try to educate them and move on,” said Boudreau. “We don’t all fit in the same box. I know who I am. I don't quite look like a boy yet, but one day I'm going to look the way that I want to and not be misgendered.”