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Pride in Air Force family

Airman stands for photo.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Foster Conner poses for a photo at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 11, 2021. Conner struggled with familial controversy regarding his sexual orientation when he lived at home, now in the Air Force, he shares how he has finally found community and acceptance.(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mya Crosby)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Foster Conner projects a room-brightening personality. He holds his head high, shoulders straight, he’s comfortable, confident and proud of who he is.

“In the military, I’ve found my community,” said Conner, 8th Security Forces Squadron Airman at Kunsan Air Base.  “A community where I don’t have to worry about being shunned. We’re all family here.”

Before he joined the Air Force, Conner shared how he did have to worry about being shunned…by both his community and his family.

Raised in a strictly religious home, Conner said he was taught to look down on people who fell outside of the community’s standards. Until the age of 12, Conner’s life revolved around activity inside, and with people from, his church. However, at the age of 12, Conner came out as gay to his family and church.

Immediately, he said he had become one of those looked-down-upon outsiders. Conner said he was even barred from interacting with his church friends because adults “didn’t want him to spread the disease of being gay to other kids.”

Conner said he felt he could no longer connect with his parents, spending many sleepless nights in secret, researching why he felt the way he did, because there was no one in his family he could speak with.

The emotional disconnectedness between Conner and his family came to a head when he was 15, and his grandfather died. Between withholding who he truly was from his grandfather under familial pressure, and then being accused of being willfully distant after his death, it was all too much.  

Conner said he spent the rest of his high school years at home, feeling depressed, experiencing suicidal ideations, and unable to escape the weight of confusion and disbelonging in the world.

After high school, Conner sought new life experiences, which eventually led him to an Air Force recruiter. There, Conner laid out his family situation and the fact that he was gay.

“My recruiter told me the military is a place where all of that stuff doesn’t matter,” Conner said.

Five years later, Conner is here at Kunsan and he says the recruiter was right.

“In the military, you’re all brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or black or this or that, we’re all family…I was able to break away from a toxic culture,” Conner said. “Standing here today, I would tell my 12 year old self to not fall into the traps you were taught. You are your own person and no matter what they say they can’t break you.”

Staff Sgt. Foster Conner is an Airman in the United States Air Force. He is gay, and proud to be.