Video helps people struggling with sexuality
When Tracy Eaglestone came out as a lesbian to her family, they just shrugged and said "OK".
But she knows not everyone gets such an accepting reaction.
Sapper Eaglestone, 32, based at Linton Military Camp, is one of nine Defence Force personnel who are sharing their stories with the message that "it does get better" to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community in a new video initiated by Defence Force group OverWatch.
OverWatch, named after a military tactic where one group supports another, was formed in 2012, and acts as an GLBTI peer support network within the defence force.
The video, introduced by Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, was launched at the recent NZ Defence Force's Pride in Diversity conference.
In it, participants talk about their fears of rejection, wondering if there was something wrong with them and for one, an attempt at suicide, while grappling with their sexuality.
Originally from Auckland, Sapper Eaglestone said she joined OverWatch this year and returned to Auckland to join marchers in the 2013 Gay Pride Parade earlier this year.
It was the first year the New Zealand Defence Force has allowed its military personnel to take part in a pride parade in uniform.
Sapper Eaglestone said she "came out" to her family at age 17, and was "lucky" to get a relaxed reception from her family.
In the video, she says: "There was another girl in the hockey team that I thought was really amazing, and one day I realised what I was feeling - ‘Oh, I'm in love'.
"At that point it was like, ‘Ah, that explains that, and that, and that'."
Since then, she'd taken up various advocacy roles, and didn't hesitate when OverWatch asked her to take part in the video.
"I've learned over the years that just being out and being seen makes a huge difference to people who haven't, that it's not all doom and gloom."
Attitudes were changing toward GLBTI people - people were growing up with more understanding than they used to, she said.
Sapper Eaglestone said her sexuality had not been a problem in the military and it was more about getting the work done that mattered.
In fact, she joined because she wanted to get into carpentry, and had met resistance in the civilian world, she believes, because she is a woman.
But since joining the army, it had "opened doors" for her when going out to do work on civilian projects.
"I guess people think, ‘If you can handle being in the army . . .' "
She hoped that the video might help other people, in the military or otherwise, feel better about who they are by providing a positive image.
As she signs off in the video: "You will get through, it will get better, and you will be awesome."