Everyone has a journey to make when telling people about their sexuality or gender identity. With friends and family the process is a one off. However, at work we tend to have to come out time and again. To help you on your journey here are the stories of some of our members. Or you can take a look at the advice and stories of people outside the military at http://www.rucomingout.com/, and the sites below.
Lt Col Jim Turner
My name is Lt Col Jim Turner and my current appointment is Commander Regional Recruiting for the West Midlands. I’ve been an Infantry Officer for over twenty years and I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every appointment and posting I’ve had. I strongly believe that anyone now serving or about to join should have the certainty that they can enjoy a full career with no danger of suffering any form of discrimination.
As a recruiter, I’ve been asked if it’s ok to declare your sexual orientation or gender identity when you start the process of joining the Army. It certainly isn’t mandatory. It is very much a personal choice as to when and to whom you choose to come out. The important thing is that people have the freedom to let their orientation be known as they please and that they won’t be discriminated against because of it. Anecdotally, that is exactly the experience of the vast majority of our people. Indeed, the most likely reaction in the Army, as in Civvy Street, is going to be along the lines of: “Fine. So what?”
Speaking personally, I spent a long time “in the closet” at work. Attitudes have changed and the advice I’d offer now is that people can confidently be open and honest from the outset. This ties in closely with the Army’s Values and Standards, in particular “Integrity” and “Respect for others”. These are core values that we expect from our colleagues and of course must practice ourselves.
“When I first joined the Army in September 2007, coming out of the closet was the last thing on my mind. Being at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, I was surrounded by lads and trained by lads. To me, coming out would not be healthy and with the additional stress of thinking my father would find out, I decided to stay well and truly locked in Narnia.
In February 2009, a member of my platoon approached me while on Exercise Grand Prix 6 in Kenya and asked if I was gay. Shocked but with an unusual feeling of self confidence I told him the truth. It felt good. Just the knowledge that one person I worked with was accepting and more proved to be a massive boost to my self confidence.
Later on that year (with the usual banter that comes with an infantry unit during all the months between), my platoon went out for a few quiet drinks. During the evening a few questions were asked again. With a weird sense of sudden self-confidence I screamed (not too highly-pitched): “YES”!!. After realising what I had said and seeing the look on my platoon sergeant’s face, I panicked. However, I was soon put at ease when he then said “now that wasn’t so hard was it? It’s your round anyway”.
I have to say in all honesty that since that day I have never looked back on the decision. I have had nothing but support from the guys I work with. Even during times when ‘outside people’ have had something bad to say, they have always stuck up for me. Four years on it is not an issue. Yes I am still the ‘gay one’ but I sit alongside ‘the old one’, ‘the ginger one’, ‘the ugly one’ etc. I still do my job to the best of my ability and sexuality is not an issue… apart from nights out, of course, when I have a line of people outside my door asking how they look. That’s life I guess!”
“Hello everyone, my name is Melanie Rose Scott. I didn’t always go by this name, however. I was born male and came out as transgender during my service in the British Army. It wasn’t easy but the support system that the Army has in place helped me to get through it, and I am now very near the end of my two years’ ‘RLE’ (real life experience).
When I was young I didn’t really fit in well in many social groups. I managed to figure out who I was, but was told otherwise by my mother who said ‘it was a phase’. I kept having such feelings, to the point I got really scared. I looked for the most manly job going – what could be better than the Army? I joined at 16, and I managed to get through the majority of my training before depression struck me and affected my work.
The guys I was working with picked up on my depression and confronted me to share so they could help. I just blurted it out, unsure how they would react. Funnily enough everyone managed to get on with it. Of course, the questions flew, and coming out in general is never easy. Some people were a bit awkward at first because it’s not an everyday thing. But I was surrounded by good mates.
Now I am being who I am meant to be, and I am much happier for taking a stand about myself. If you any of you guys reading have any questions feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.”
You can also see Melanie talking about her transition in this short film ‘All about Trans‘ available on YouTube.