Loneliness and isolation among lifelong impacts of Armed Forces 'gay ban', study finds

Watch: The academic study involved interviews and surveys with more than 100 veterans with first-hand experience of the ban.

A new report has shone a light on the lifelong impact of the 'gay ban' in the Armed Forces.

The study carried out by Northumbria University, has found that many of the LGBT+ people who were dismissed from the military for their sexual orientation are suffering from long-term mental health problems. 

LGBT+ military charity Fighting with Pride (FWP) says 86% of LGBT+ veterans felt dismissal for their sexual orientation or gender identity has affected their mental health.

Until the year 2000, no-one could be openly gay in the British military and, if someone was found out, they risked dismissal, disgrace and, in many cases, financial ruin.

'A story of loneliness and isolation'

RAF veteran and Fighting with Pride chief executive Caroline Paige told Forces News: "Many of them were subject to investigations by the special investigations branch, they were given invasive medical inspections.

"Or they were marched to the main gate and just thrown off and told they are not worthy of being veterans.

"So, it's a story of loneliness and isolation."

The academic study involved interviews and surveys with more than 100 veterans with first-hand experience of the ban.

Findings from the two-year academic study, entitled 'Lost and Found', revealed the following:

  • 86% of LGBT+ veterans felt dismissal for sexual orientation or gender identity from the Armed Forces affected their mental health
  • 74% of those dismissed said their finances have been affected
  • 82% of respondents were subjected to intrusive investigations 
  • 72% felt 'vilified' and that they were 'treated like a criminal' 
  • 65% of LGBT+ veterans surveyed said it affected their employment and careers 
  • 56 % said it had impacted having a place to live
  • 84.4% of survey respondents reported being lonely
Watch: Dame Kelly Holmes spoke to Forces News earlier this year about how life for LGBTQ+ forces personnel has improved.

'Just demeaning, and humiliating'

Army veteran Tremaine Cornish told Forces News about his experience in the Armed Forces.

"My locker was searched. I was sent for a medical examination with a Navy doctor even though I'd served in the Army – that's because I was down in Plymouth with the Commando forces.

"I was interrogated further as to who did what with whom and how... did I like wearing women's underwear etc etc.

"Offensive, just demeaning, and humiliating. The examination from the doctor was to examine parts of me to see if they could find proof."

'Financial hurt'

Many of the personnel who were forced out "went into homelessness", according to Caroline.

"Many of them went into homelessness because when they were outed, they were also outed to family. Their relationships with their family broke down, they lost their accommodation.

"Of course, losing their job, they lost their finances.

"So there's financial hurt, there's emotional hurt, there's mental health issues, which have never been addressed and that's what this report is about."

Tremaine added: "I've been vilified. I've been found unworthy. I feel there was some stolen valour from me.

"There were certain positions, certain jobs, certain careers, that were just not open to me because it was on my record – homosexual, that's it."

Fighting with Pride wants an apology from the Prime Minister for the way gay veterans have been treated and financial recompense.

The military is seen as a very different place today, and Fighting with Pride wants veterans who suffered to be welcomed into the new, inclusive Armed Forces family.

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