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.