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.