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Royal Navy Pride: How the Royal Navy supports their LGBTQ+ community

For three hundred and ten years the Royal Navy hunted down, persecuted and sometimes even hanged homosexuals found within their ranks.

Execution ceased after 1835, but life imprisonment remained a reality. The partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 did little to sway the opinion of the Armed Forces, and it was not until 2000 that real change was made.

The Royal Navy were not alone in their persecution of homosexuals, or indeed anybody else from within the LGBTQ+ community, but have been perhaps marred by the image that many still hold today; that they promote an aggressive, macho, alpha-male stereotype. 

But over the past twenty-one years, the Royal Navy has become a beacon of progress and acceptance. In a statement on their website in January 2020, the Royal Navy wanted to send a clear message: “the Naval Service welcomes all talent to its ranks, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity” – a far cry from the “gay panic” that gripped Naval officials just forty years previous.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the ban on homosexuals serving in the forces being lifted last year, naval bases and Royal Marines units up and down the country flew rainbow flags from their main masts, sailors attended a House of Commons reception and Portsmouth’s Naval Base headquarters was lit up in colours.


43 Commando Royal Marines, HMNB Portsmouth and HMNB Devonport 20th Anniversary Commemorations. Crown Copyright and Open Government Licence.

Compass

Formerly the LGBT Forum, Compass (the Royal Navy Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Network) looks to educate, enthuse, engage and empower current and future LGBTQ+ personnel by improving representation, understanding and visibility.

Members of Compass have been able to participate in further training programmes through Stonewall to better understand the experiences of others that differ from their own and to provide support for those who may feel isolated or struggle to “come out”.


Compass poster. National Museum of the Royal Navy; Devonport Collections

Fighting With Pride

In the first instance, Fighting with Pride is a book written by Lt Cdr Craig Jones MBE. Joining the Royal Navy in 1989, he became the first “out” LGBTQ+ person in the Armed Forces, coming out the day the ban was lifted.

Jones led the work to restore the Armed Forces Covenant for the serving LGBTQ+ community, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2006.

Published to mark the 20th anniversary of the ban being lifted, the book features stories from LGBTQ+ service men and women who have served in the Armed Forces since the Second World War.

Fighting With Pride is also a new military charity, created on the anniversary of the lifting of the ban. They support “LGBT+ Veterans, serving personnel and their families, particularly those who were affected by the ‘gay ban’…” Craig Jones serves as Joint Chief Executive.

The Royal Navy’s push for equality is consistently celebrated and remains an ongoing commitment both on land and at sea.

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