This is a first hand account by LGBTQ Heritage founder, Tim.
“I joined the British Royal Navy as an officer in 2006. It was only six years after the ban on gay people serving in the military was lifted but this actually never even entered my mind in deciding to join up. At the time it was, and still is, a great career path for university graduates and I needed a sense of adventure in my life – Join the Navy, See the World.
I had struggled with my sexuality from around the age of 18 and by the time I graduated university, I was sure in myself that I was a gay man but it was only after joining the Navy that I gained the courage to come out. This courage was two-fold. First, I quickly befriended an openly gay guy who joined up with me and it was refreshing to see how open he was and how ‘normally’ he was treated. The second reason was a growing confidence and empowerment that I know the Navy taught me. In the leadership and management training we received, we learned about great leaders of our day who lead their people fearlessly in great times of adversity. The fact that this next generation of leaders in the Royal Navy was me and my peers was hugely empowering and gave me a confidence I maintain until this day.
I came out to my family, friends and colleagues in a very short space of time about six months in to my initial naval training. Everyone took it so well, a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could get on with living my life. Being an open gay man was merely part of me, not the single thing that defined me.
Whenever I moved on throughout my career, I was aware that being an open gay man was incredibly important, especially being an officer and in a position of responsibility. I made a point of telling all my Captains on my joining call that I was gay, not because I felt it was something I should highlight, more to stop them from being embarrassed with assumptions. The banter never bothered me, sailors are simple creatures and will make fun of the easiest thing they can set their minds to. I would even openly challenge the lads under my direct chain of command to come up with gay jokes I hadn’t heard before – no one ever succeeded! I was very open with the guys that worked for me, I encouraged them to ask me questions, whatever they wanted – I would tell them if they crossed a line but tried my best to answer everything they asked to break down barriers and educate them. I was very frank with them, even down to answering questions about dating and sex – if the question was inappropriate I would turn it around and ask the same thing of them and then watch them squirm under the metaphorical spotlight.
When I chose to leave the Royal Navy for my personal life, I was in a long distance relationship and we were to be married and move to the USA (we are married and going strong three years later), I was at the high point in my career. The Officers and Ships company of my final appointment were the greatest team I have ever worked with, and that remains true to this day. The First Crew of the Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron was a home from home for me and I hold them with such affection. There are friendships I hold until this day – some of which have even been to visit my husband and I in the USA. The officers, including me, also have a Whatsapp chat group that we stay in touch and mercilessly make fun of one another.
So why did I feel compelled to write this? Simply because my story is a complete non-story. So many think that being out in the military is such an uncomfortable thing to do, but not in the UK. I know gay men, gay women, transgender people and everything in between serving in all three branches of the UK Military and am yet to hear any negative stories. All services march together in London Pride every year and all services recruit at gay pride events. Stonewall UK also lists the military on it’s top 100 employers for LGBT People.
The long and short of it is serving in the military brings a sense of common purpose that brings so many people together from so many different walks of life. The common goal of defending ones country and living (and sometimes dying together) completely transcends any prejudice. Did I worry that anyone thought less of me because of my sexuality? Absolutely not – all I cared about was doing my job to the best of my ability and leading my team to achieve the same.
I want to take this final sentence to mention my former crew MCM2 Crew 1 and by name, Ben Vickery, John Cromie, Gregg Powell, Jon Eastburn and Dave Williams – you’ll forever hold a special place in my life and I will never forget any one of you.”
Tim retired from the Royal Navy in December 2014 and moved to the USA with his Husband in February 2016. He still has a wicked sense of humor and unrivaled allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
The LGBTQ Heritage Team