First openly transgender armed forces officer Caroline Paige celebrated in stunning photograph

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The first openly transgender armed forces officer Caroline Paige is among the women celebrated in a stunning photograph marking 100 years of women in the military.

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, (formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) assembled a number of women currently serving and veterans from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Airforce for the 100 year anniversary of women being legally permitted to serve in the British military.

Among the women is Flight Lieutenant Caroline Paige, the first transgender officer to serve openly in the UK Armed Forces as their chosen gender identity.

Caroline Paige (SSAFA/Robert Wilson)
Caroline Paige, flanked by Heather Stanning and Kelly Holmes (SSAFA/Robert Wilson)

The 57-year-old joined the RAF in 1980, prior to her transition, as a Fast Jet and Battlefield Helicopter Navigator. She transitioned in 1999.

Other women in the photograph from war photographer Robert Wilson include Olympic gold medallists Dame Kelly Holmes and Heather Stanning OBE.

The full lineup in the photograph, from left to right, is as follows: Rose Watson (Orderly in the Auxiliary Territorial Service), Wing Commander Kirsty Bushell (SSAFA Vice Chairman), Major Heather Stanning OBE (Double Olympic Gold Medallist) Flight Lieutenant Caroline Paige (First Transgender Officer to Openly Serve in the UK Armed Forces), Sergeant Dame Kelly Holmes, DBE (Double Olympic Gold Medallist), Flight Lieutenant Nosheen Chaudry (Toured with The Red Arrows), Able Rate Sara Jones (Works at HMS President) Major General Susan Ridge (The Army’s Highest-Ranking Woman), Sergeant Chantelle Taylor (First Female to Kill in Combat) Petty Officer & Naval Reservist Natalie Corney (Royal Navy Reservist), Abbie Colvin (Army Combat Medic), Able Seaman Lynsey Hellier (Navy Chef).

“It was wonderful to join SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity in its celebration of the centenary of women in the military,” she said.

“Being the first openly transgender officer was very difficult, because back in 1999 the military was a very different place to what it is today.”

Flight Lieutenant Paige added: “I always used my experience to inspire a change in attitude and help the military become as is now open and inclusive as it is now.

“The work SSAFA has done for women in our Armed Forces for the past 100 years is incredibly inspiring and I was honoured to be part of this celebration.”

British women have served alongside men in 50 wars and conflicts over the last century.

Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, said: “Women have been officially serving our country for a century. SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has been in existence for 132 years and has witnessed the evolution of the roles available for females within the military.

“We must take a moment to pause, reflect and celebrate their contribution as this milestone approaches.

“It is essential that we continue to promote inclusivity and diversity throughout our Armed Forces in order to benefit from the talent that exists across British society.”

In the US, there has been much debate about whether or not transgender people will be recruited into the military and allowed to serve as their chosen gender identity.

President Barack Obama lifted the ban on transgender troops back in June 2016, meaning that a number of trans people in the military could then openly serve.

However, there has been a delay in the introduction of a trans-inclusive recruitment policy, with the Army and Maine Corps requesting delays as the initial deadline set for July 1, 2017 has been and passed.

Transgender cadets in the US military have been told that they can graduate from their training, but are unable to serve.

The latest extension means that it will be another six months before transgender people can openly serve in the US armed forces.