As part of LGBT History month Lt Col Jim Turner has provided us with an insight into life in the Infantry over the past two and a half decades – taking into considering the lift of the ban on LGB individuals in the military.
I was commissioned from Sandhurst as an Infantry Platoon Commander in 1991 and looking back over the past 24 years it is quite breathtaking how much the Army has changed in its attitudes and approach to all aspects of Diversity. I served 10 years under the ban and would have been automatically discharged had it come to light that I was gay. There wasn’t really much chance of that happening as I was buried so deeply in my closet; “down to stage 3” in infantry trench parlance. The lifting of the ban was certainly a relief, but for me it wasn’t a signal to come bursting out of that closet. After 10 years of telling friends and comrades a carefully constructed pack of lies, it’s hard to come clean. Rather, I came out gradually to more and more people at home and at work but always maintaining a façade to the world in general.
In 2009 a young, openly gay officer was posted into my Regiment. For all sorts of spurious reasons I was quite worried by this but very quickly an amazingly obvious truth dawned; no one gave a damn anymore. I came out, nothing happened and no one was particularly surprised. I have been far happier and more comfortable in my skin ever since.
I have had a fantastic career in the Army and don’t regret a day of my service. We’re still not a perfect organisation, but I passionately believe that the days of institutional discrimination and bias are long gone. There will always be individual cases where things go wrong – that happens in any walk of life. However, we now have the right policies and the collective determination to stop it happening and vigorously redress any failings. The Army genuinely values diversity and anyone can serve with pride.
For more information regarding the above please feel free to contact us. You can also find out more about LGBT History month on their website available at LGBT History Month.
Since 1999 the British Army has allowed open Transgender service, which has paved the way for a number of people to serve as who they wish to be seen. However, for some, in the early stages, it was not an easy journey, yet through their hardship we who serve now and identify, as Transgender, can serve freely and achieve the main reason in which we joined the forces for – to serve and do our jobs regardless of our gender status.
In light of February being LGBT History Month, I wish to regale you of a tale of a serving Transman prior to the introduction of such Acts and Policies which we benefit from today.
Dr James Miranda Stuart Barry, commissioned on the 6 July 1813 and retired in 1864, was born Margaret Ann Buckley, there is much speculation about his early life and what would lead this individual to achieve all he did during his service. His main aim whilst serving was to improve the sanitation, food and overall care for soldiers, families and prisoners alike. He began his career in Chelsea and the Royal Military Hospital in Plymouth. While there he received his first promotion to Staff Surgeon. After his promotion he went on to serve in the Battle of Waterloo, India and Cape Town before he became a Medical Inspector. He then deployed further in the likes of Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada to name a few. At all points of his career he demonstrated perfect professionalism although his actions were rife with insubordination in order to achieve his goal.
His gender identity was never questioned nor an issue until his death in 1865, in which several blackmail claims were held against Dr Barry’s Chief Medical officer – Major McKinnon. These claims purported that the military had failed in the misemployment of a female within service in exchange for money. Major McKinnon did not see Dr Barry’s service as anything more than what it was as a male surgeon doing his job to the best of his ability.
He was buried with full rank and under the name James Barry.
In times of reflection such as LGBT History Month it is inspiring to see individuals whom support the LGBT and in particular Trans community within the Armed Forces and beyond.
Article courtesy of our Transgender Rep Spr Melanie Scott.
We’re delighted to be able to share with you a short film featuring two of our Forum Committee members – Capt Hannah Winterbourne & Spr Melanie Scott.
The film gives a fantastic insight into the lives of transgender people within the British Army and is part of a larger serious of short films commissioned by All About Trans and produced by Lucky Tooth Films in collaboration with Channel 4.
Our Sports Rep 2Lt Richard Cann reports on the Army v Navy rugby league match….
“On 12/9/14 the Army Rugby League team ran out at the AJ Bell Stadium in Manchester against the Royal Navy. Much the same as it’s sister Union fixture, the annual fixture is always a hard fought match. This year saw two out of three victories for the Army sides however the greatest winner on that autumnal Friday was equality.
No huge fanfare or parade, just a small and simple gesture saw the teams lace up with rainbow laces to support Stonewall annual campaign. Although primarily aimed at the ‘National Game’ of Football Rainbow Laces is a campaign aimed at kicking homophobia out of the game.
The fact that over the following weekend nearly 100,000 people, from professional footballers to amateur sportsmen and women all over the UK laced up in the same manner from many differing sports shows that there is a substantial appetite for tackling Homophobia in sport. Stonewall reported that they in fact ran out of laces due to the demand being so high.
Tackling the prejudice and stigma surrounding gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people in sport, I believe is an essential step in changing the archaic views that survive general society.”
You can find out more about the #RainbowLaces campaign on the Stonewall website.
We’re incredibly pleased to have launched the new Army LGBT website that is both available on for desktop and mobile devices.
We’ll be updating the site far more often with our latest activities, news, events and photos from all of the work that the Army LGBT Forum carries out.
Our thanks to Nicky Rowbottom for the use of some of her photos.
We’d like to hear what you think so please do contact us to let us know.
This year, for the first time the Army LGBT Forum and the AFCIO Victoria manned a stall at the UK Black Pride Picnic in the Park. Held on Sunday 30th June 2014 the stall composed of two forum members and two members of the local Army Reserve unit. Invited by Ms. Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Director and Co-Founder of UkBlackPride) after speaking at the Army LGBT Forum annual conference we were delighted to attend.
The day was very relaxed with people browsing the various stalls, food area and relaxation area punctuated with the periodical gravitational pull of the performances and presentations on the main stage area; it had the feel of a family event.
Our stand was very busy with people interested in discussing life in the Army focused upon on being LGBT or being a member of the BME community.
The day was a great success with lots of enquiry and interaction between the BME LGBT community and the Army. Sgt Guy Lowe-Barrow remarked:
The thing that struck me the most was how welcoming the participants were. The engagement with the general public was extremely positive and many people commented on the how great it was to see the Army being pro active and engaging specifically with the BME LGBT community.
The day ended with a performance from the heading-lining act Misha B of X-Factor fame.
London Pride 2014 saw over 100 servicemen and women march this year with tens of thousands of people lining the streets in celebration.
This year Royal Logistic Corps troops were out in force, being the largest representatives of the Army contingent with 5 members marching out of the total 37 from the Army.
Led by 2Lt Richard Cann, members of the parade included Sgt Guy Lowe-Barrow, Sgt Jamie Carrahar, Cpl Louise Bradley and Cpl Joe Brown with OCdt Chris Howard also taking part in the parade with his civilian employer.
The Army Briefing Note 32/14, containing details of this years Army LGBT Conference, has been uploaded to ArmyNET and if you’d like to attend this years conference please complete this and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Download the ABN 32/14
We look forward to seeing as many of you and your respective chains of command in attendance.
The new Army LGBT Forum Committee has been announced, with many new members joining, and others moving into new roles. Forum Chair WO2 Karen Stiles and her team are looking forward to a great year ahead.
See armylgbt.org.uk/committee for details.
The Army’s work to improve LGBT equality has been recognised in two nominations for the g3/Out in the City awards 2014.
The Army LGBT Forum is nominated in the category of LGBT Network Group of the Year.
The outgoing Chair, Maj Damian Jenkins, has been nominated for LGBT Diversity Champion of the Year.
Check out the competition and register your vote at: