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Walking With The Wounded supports Fighting With Pride

This month marks Pride and this week we will celebrating Armed Forces Day. In this blog, Jacquie shares her story of serving in the Armed Forces and her experience of being in the LGBTQ+ community.

Founded in January 2020, Fighting with Pride (FWP) is a lived-experience charity supporting the health and wellbeing of LGBT+ Veterans, service personnel and their families. In particular, FWP is supporting those most impacted by the ban on LGBT+ personnel serving in the Armed Forces, prior to January 2000 when it was lifted, following a European Court ruling.

Even though the ban was ended 21 years ago, LGBT+ Veterans remain separated from the military family and wary of military charities that historically turned them away. FWP is working with the Government to agree on reparations and with NHS MHTs and Veteran support organisations, such as WWTW, to raise awareness of the traumatic consequences of the ban on Veterans mental health and wellbeing and help them deliver visibly inclusive welcomes with the best possible support. FWP has also begun a research programme partnered with Northumbria University that will help shape future support services.

Without any sense of this community’s hurt, it is hard to recognise, understand and support the health and wellbeing impacts still endured today.  Jacqui told FWP:

“I joined the Royal Navy in 1989, aged 18. I had a great time and enjoyed Navy life, winning prizes in training, promotion, and being recommended for officer training. I didn’t know I was gay when I joined up, it was a gradual coming to terms with myself, and it was a struggle because the military ban meant I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, for if I did, I would lose my career. Not just my career, but my home, friends, Navy family, pension…everything. And that’s exactly what happened.

Between 1990 and 1992, I was repeatedly investigated for hours on end. I had my belongings searched and was asked explicit questions about my sex life, but I had no representation and wasn’t even told my rights. I had to learn to live a lie at a very young age when you are still forming your identity.

I was dumped outside the main gate with a rail warrant, homeless, jobless, and forced to come out to my parents. I didn’t get anything other leavers got, like housing or financial advice, resettlement, or educational grants. I was not referred to any military charities, nor did I feel I could go to them, I have never been invited to a Remembrance Day event. I was basically told by my country and my service, that I wasn’t good enough, for something I couldn’t change, like having blue eyes or dark hair.

That was just the start of what for me and thousands of others, has been a lifetime of distress. I still haven’t found a suitable career, I’ve been homeless, jobless, have had ongoing mental health concerns, I have been in tears in the job centre, I have gaps on my c.v. and I have to relive the trauma on every single job application form. I just feel I am erased from military history.”

Craig Jones MBE, Joint CEO FWP says:

“I came out on the day the ban was lifted and against the thinking of the time led changes which have transformed the Armed Forces approach to EDI for LGBT+ serving personnel.  Despite the remarkable achievements of our serving LGBT+ members of the armed forces, in the 21 years since the ban was lifted nothing has been done to support our LGBT+ veterans.  These veterans were singled out for shameful treatment and until they are welcome back to the Armed Forces family, recognised for their service and recompensed for their experiences this matter will remain a national disgrace.”

Caroline Paige, Joint CEO FWP says:

“I served 35 years in the RAF, but I was fortunate that after transitioning gender, in February 1999, I got to serve 16 of those years openly, as my true self. Jacqui’s story is not unique amongst LGBT+ Veterans who served pre-ban, many of whom were shamefully treated and have struggled to find their feet again. FWP is proud to see WWTW helping raise awareness, as it is essential that service charities demonstrate a visibly welcoming support to this long-isolated community.”

Find out more about Fighting With Pride, here.