At Diversity Role Models we pride ourselves on our volunteer role models coming from all walks of life and today we want to recognise and take a moment to reflect on those who have and are currently serving in our Armed Forces.
On 12th January 2000, 20 years ago today, the law that previously prevented openly Gay and Lesbian individuals to serve in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces was lifted allowing anyone to join the military as their true selves and for those who were already serving the freedom to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of losing their livelihoods.
The military have since worked hard to tackle the stigma left behind by the ban and all 4 services (Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force & Ministry of Defence) now have active LGBT+ Networks and policies in place to protect those who may need support in the workplace.
We asked several of our volunteers to share a few words with us about the impact that day had on them and the people around them:
“I remember when I joined in 1998, the Recruiter tried to trick me into admitting I was Gay, not because he thought I was, but, because it was what they needed to do. I didn’t fully realise I was then and am grateful for that, otherwise I wouldn’t have got to see how far the Armed Forces has come in 20 years, nor would I have been able to play my small part in helping people like myself be the best they could be.”
(Sergeant Alastair Smith-Weston. Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. Joined the Army 1998 and still serving)
“The lifting of the ban restored my faith in Defence; I am glad that people don’t have to suppress their feelings like I did. I avoided relationships so as not to be discharged from service because I was doing a job that I loved. Instead, I threw my energies into sport and achieved recognition by representing the Royal Navy at both Hockey and Football. I am extremely proud to be in the Armed Forces and hope to be the visible role model I never had.”
(Chief Petty Officer Ann Miller-McCaffrey. Joined the Naval Service in 1987 and still serving)
“I was always apprehensive about being gay and joining the Army, even though the ban had been lifted. However, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. This wouldn’t have happened without the courage of LGBT personnel, and their allies, who led the way. I’m extremely grateful to them and hope I can be even a fraction as effective a role model to those who come after myself.’
(Maj Frazer Stark. The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Joined Regular Army in 2010 and is still serving)
I am incredibly to proud to be one of the founding ally members of the LGBTQ+ & Allies Branch of the Royal British Legion. We are just under 1 year old and already have over 100 members, located around the country and overseas. It has been such a positive move forward for the legion to now have this branch as a signifier to those veterans who were removed from service or left for fear of what may happen, who do identify as LGB, that they have a place they can come to for support, comradery and befriending alongside serving personnel.
(Susan Coleman, Royal British Legion)
Events will be taking place throughout the year to remember and celebrate the lifting of the ban. We are proud of all our volunteers and thank them all for their service.