Louis Fletcher served in the Navy as a yeoman when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the official U.S. policy on military service of non-heterosexual people. When the policy ended 17 years later in 2011, Fletcher, a gay man, was an honorably discharged veteran working for TSA as an Executive Assistant for Security Operations.
Fletcher, currently a program manager for the Requirements and Capability Analysis department for the Innovation Task Force (ITF), views Pride Month from the lens of experience. Although he’s fortunate to not have experienced blatant discrimination for how he identifies, he’s seen it perpetrated on others.
“I think that Pride Month is good because it brings the collective together in a single voice,” said Fletcher. “It’s a reminder that we’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go. Without Pride Month, people will start to forget the progress we’ve made. But today it’s kind of hard to roll back progress because awareness and acceptance is greater than bias and hatred.”
Progress in Fletcher’s professional life is measured in innovative solutions that make the agency run more efficiently. In his current role, one of his projects came from the Training and Development program office involving modernizing the way on line training materials are provided to the airports.
“The solution I am working on is web-based on the Cloud so Training can update the content expeditiously.”
Fletcher is the point of contact on innovation projects, accomplishing success by executing solutions through modeling, testing, data assessments and by acting as a central point for solution results.
“One method is we use the TSA Systems Integration Facility, or TSIF for short, which is the TSA’s test facility, along with other means to gather data to make a recommendation as to whether a particular solution is the most accurate for that problem.”
By seeking feedback from the field, Fletcher’s work in ITF busts the myth that HQ employees don’t know or care what goes on at the airports. Instead, the field’s feedback is valued and appreciated when adopting a new solution.
“By going out (to the airports) and doing the demonstrations, officers have a part to play in this,” said Fletcher.
Advice for navigating identities in the workplace
What Fletcher brings to the workplace as far as his knowledge, skills and abilities has nothing to do with his sexual orientation. It’s far down on his priority list.
“My advice to people is don't focus on that,” said Fletcher. “Be who you are; don't hide it. If you believe in yourself, other people will believe in you. If you think things are not working, speak up but have the understanding that just because you speak up, it doesn’t mean that change will happen the next day. If you believe something is wrong, stay strong and fight the good fight as those that came before us did.”
What does this month mean to you?
“I think it’s important to celebrate a culture that has contributed to the success of America’s film, fashion, government, and political spaces. Also by highlighting it, it gives those of us assurance that our place of work recognizes who we are and that they stand by the principles of accepting me no matter how I identify. Instead, the agency focus is on the matters that are important, such as my work and my contribution to the agency’s goals.
“Being a gay, Black, married (10 years) man and veteran, I celebrate by enjoying the time with all my brothers, sisters and allies by enjoying the freedoms that those that came before me fought and died for.”
What I do matters
“What I do matters because I represent the Transportation Security Administration as a point of contact on innovation projects, programs and other work activities. I also present briefings to internal and external audiences to secure understanding or obtain consensus/approval on innovation strategies.
“ITF pulls together panels with experts from across TSA to discuss more extensively current gaps, future plans and initiatives. I represent TSA and ITF at conferences and innovation sites where I engage industry on topics of innovation. I participate in discussions with industry on different topics such as how to bridge the innovation gap between TSA’s field and HQ stakeholders and how the private industry can champion that bridge.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs