The Royal British Legion has launched an official branch for LGBT+ people serving in the Armed Forces.
The charity, which provides financial, social and emotional support to veterans, servicepeople and military families, said it is hoping to tackle stigma and isolation by creating the dedicated LGBTQ+ & Allies branch to allow people to connect and support each other.
The move comes 19 years after the ban on gay people serving in the UK’s military was lifted.
Royal British Legion ‘open to all’
Emma Miller-McCaffrey, one of the branch’s founding members, explained: “There are many people who historically have not been treated appropriately by the military, but that has now changed. I am proud to be married to my wife – a serving member of the Royal Navy, and I am proud of who I am as a gay woman.
“Becoming a member of the Legion’s LGBTQ branch allows me to be all of those things without judgement. It’s great to see the Legion reminding people that they are here to support all who served, regardless of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”
The Royal British Legion explained in a statement: “As we mark the anniversary of the end of the ban on LGBTQ people serving in the Forces, the Legion is encouraging LGBTQ+ veterans, those currently serving and civilians, many of whom have previously been stigmatised within the military to join the new national branch.
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“The new branch will recognise and remember the contribution of the LGBTQ+ community to the British Armed Forces, and raise awareness of the Legion services accessible to the currently under-represented group.
“It is hoped that the new branch will act as a safe space for people from across the LGBTQ+ community to share experiences and support the work of the Legion.”
Royal British Legion: We hope that this new branch will bring the LGBTQ and Armed Forces communities together
Emma Cannings, Director of Membership at The Royal British Legion said: “We know that people who identify as LGBTQ have historically been marginalised within the Armed Forces community, and as a result haven’t come forward for the help and support they’re entitled to.
“We hope that this new branch will bring the LGBTQ and Armed Forces communities together, to commemorate the sacrifices made by our LGBTQ veterans and serving personnel and ensure that our services are accessible to all those who need them.”
Gay people were barred from serving in the British armed forces until 2000, when the discriminatory rules were struck down by the European Court of Human Rights.
The armed forces have since launched major reforms to become LGBT+ inclusive, with all four branches of the British military—the Army, Navy, Air Force and Royal Marines—all marching together in 2018’s Pride in London parade for the first time.
Dedicated recruitment campaigns have also been launched, encouraging LGBT+ people to join the armed forces and challenging fears of homophobic attitudes.
The Royal British Legion runs the annual poppy campaign.
In 2018, a rainbow poppy shared by activists attracted anger.