It’s a shame that lesbian and gay personnel contributed so much to both World Wars but had to return to discrimination in Britain, gay campaigner Peter Tatchell said today on the eve of Remembrance Day.
Remembrance day is held to mark the anniversary of the end of the First World War and also to remember the soldiers and civilians who died in other wars, which Mr Tatchell said statistically would have involved a lot of gay and lesbian personnel as well as other members of the community.
His campaign group, Outrage, used to lay a pink triangle wreath at the Cenotaph to recognise the gays and lesbians who died in World War Two, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “Based on statistics that about 10 per cent of the population is lesbian gay or bisexual, that must mean around half a million lesbians, gays and bisexuals served in the British armed forces.
“The tragedy is that lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel contributed to winning freedom but when they returned from the battlefield they were denied freedom themselves.”
He said the abolition of Britain’s anti-gay laws did not begin until the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 and is only now nearly completed with the civil partnership act.
The armed forces lifted a ban on gay and lesbian recruits in 2000.
One prominent gay serviceman was Wilfred Owen. After his death his poetry, questioning the worthiness of the First World War, was discovered and he became one of the 20th Century’s greatest writers.
A recent biography about Owen, written by Dominic Hibberd, claims that his family hid Owen’s sexuality. He identifies “strong homoerotic impulse” in the late soldier’s works.
In World War Two, it is thought that between 5,000 and 15,000 gay people, who were seen as “sexual deviants” were sent to concentration camps and gas chambers by the Nazis, and forced to wear a pink triangle.
Sue Sanders, from LGBT History Month, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s a times when we remember the massive number of LGBT people who worked selflessly within the services and were frequently ignored.”
The event is marked with a two minute silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, remembering the time in British and that was the time in Britain and France when World War One officially ended.
The second minute remembers the victims of World War Two.