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MAP: San Diego-based military group seeks your vote in White House LGBT Pride Month video challenge

SAN DIEGO – The Military Acceptance Project (MAP), based in San Diego, is one of six finalists in the White House LGBT Pride Month “Champion of Change Video Challenge.”

The challenge is designed to “explore the stories of unsung heroes and local leaders who are making an impact in their communities. A group of finalists will be featured as Champions of Change at an event at the White House in July,” according to the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The MAP video, titled "Just Like You," shares uplifting stories about LGBT service members.

“Our goal was to personalize LGBT service members and honor their service and sacrifices,” said MAP executive director, Kristen Kavanaugh, a Naval Academy graduate, combat veteran and lesbian. “Acceptance in the military and our communities begins first by understanding that LGBT service members are just like their straight counterparts.”

The video kicks off MAP's "Just Like You" campaign to share the stories of service members, especially those from marginalized populations within the military.

MAP officials are urging the public to vote for their video, because the winner chosen by popular vote will be honored by President Barack Obama.

The other competitors are J.J. Kahle of The Blake School, Heather Carter of Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Redwood String Ensemble, George Stewart of SAGE and CenterLink.

To watch the videos and vote, click HERE. The deadline to vote is midnight on Monday, June 25.

Jasper Kump, director of communications for MAP, spoke to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about the video challenge.

SDGLN: How did Military Acceptance Project get chosen for the White House LGBT Month Video Challenge?

A: A call was put out by the White House for submissions by anyone in the United States to honor LGBT individuals or organizations who are champions of change and making positive contributions in their community and to America. We submitted our video in early May and crossed our fingers.

SDLGN: How did you choose the subject of your video, and what is it about?

A: Since the Military Acceptance Project began, we have focused on building acceptance for ALL service members -- especially LGBT service members. Our goal is always to help share their voice and experiences to help promote acceptance in the military and beyond. It was a no-brainer to feature actual, local service members and veterans. These are extraordinary people who have served our country proudly -- both before and after the repeal of DADT. The message is simple, let them tell their story and express how they are "just like you." It's a powerful message.

SDGLN: What would it mean to MAP to win the challenge and be honored at the White House?

A: Just being a semifinalist on the White House site is a huge honor. Our message of acceptance is being seen across the country and even around the world. LGBT service members and veterans past, present and future are finally being recognized for the first time in history and we are, in a small way, helping that happen. I would love to see the service members and veterans featured in our video be honored at the White House.

SDGLN: How many lives are impacted by MAP each year?

A: Since we began 18 months ago, we have reached literally thousands of service members and veterans through our website and in-person outreach.

SDGLN: What are the goals of MAP now that DADT has been repealed?

A: Our goal is to actively promote acceptance of all service members -- especially those marginalized for any reason. Naturally, this includes LGBT service members. We continue to provide resources and referrals to service members while building the Acceptance Curriculum, a new dialogue-based training that goes beyond diversity or tolerance to acceptance and "dynamic inclusion."

SDGLN: What is the word of mouth from service members about acceptance in the military, now that DADT is history?

A: The initial response to the repeal has been encouraging but cultural change, especially in the military, takes time. According to over 380 LGBT service members we surveyed, over half of them believe it will take 3-5 years or more before they can serve openly and equally.

Watch the MAP video

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.

(The photos that accompany this article are of service members who are featured in the MAP video, "Just Like You.")