Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt has praised the UK military for being welcoming of LGBT+ people, weeks after the Trump administration enacted a ban on trans personnel in the US armed forces.
The Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women and Equalities made the comments in an address to the Stonewall Workplace Conference in London on Friday (April 26).
In her speech to the conference, the minister said that including LGBT+ people in military service “wasn’t just the right thing to do morally, but a matter of operational effectiveness,” adding: “You can’t fight a war if you are busy obsessing over someone’s sexuality or hiding who you are.”
Penny Mordaunt: Army’s evolution on LGBT rights is ‘inspirational’
Mordaunt praised “the wonderful Captain Hannah Graf,” a transgender British Army officer who was named Stonewall’s Trans Role Model of the year.
Noting that gay troops were banned from serving until 2000, the minister continued: “The change in the army on LGBT rights is like the difference between bayonets and smart missiles, yet it happened so much more rapidly and that should serve as an inspiration to us all.”
She said: “[LGBT inclusion] is not about being woke or PC or trendy. It’s about the margin victory in every endeavour we set our hearts on. It’s about respect, care, love and compassion for others.
“I know this from my military service as a reservist and later as a minister for armed forces. Self-knowledge, self-respect and self-confidence are an operational imperative to our armed forces. Which is why they have come a long way in such a short space of time.”
Mordaunt’s praise for the military comes after one of the UK’s closest allies, the United States, banned trans troops from serving.
The Trump administration rule that bans transgender people from serving in the armed forces went into effect on April 12.
President Trump is set to make a state visit to the UK on June 3-5.
UK will push ahead with Gender Recognition Act changes
Elsewhere in her speech, Mordaunt indicated that the UK government will push forward with transgender rights reforms, despite hostility to the plans.
She said: “There is a particularly strong imperative to support the rights of trans people in the workplace. In fact worries about different documents with different gender markers can make trans people fearful about even applying for a job.
“The government wants to make this process, and the wider experience of being trans, much easier.
“We want to reform the way that trans people can legally change their gender, and make the process far less bureaucratic and intrusive.”
She added: “We held a public consultation last year on how best to do this, and we received more than 100,000 responses and we’re working hard to analyse them and will publish our response very shortly.”