British Army officials confront homophobia in new Stonewall campaign

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Senior British Army officers are featured in a new Stonewall campaign tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Stonewall today launched its first major public awareness campaign in a decade, encouraging people to ‘Come Out For LGBT’ and show their support.

The campaign comes as the charity published research showing that hate crime against gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Britain has risen by a massive 78 per cent in the last four years.

Images released for the campaign feature two senior officials from the British Army, Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders and Sergeant Low-Barrow

Sgt. Low-Barrow said: “Traditionally the Army was straight and male – it looked pretty homogenous from the outside.

“But letting people express their individuality – whether that’s being trans, black, Asian – allows people to be as productive as possible.”

General Saunders for Stonewall
General Saunders for Stonewall

He explained: “[When] I joined the Army… early on an issue with my sexuality got me down and I thought about leaving.

“My Company’s Sergeant Major pulled me aside to have a word – she said she wouldn’t stand by and let me throw it all away.

“She became my polaris – whenever I’ve thought ‘Do I want to be here?’ I always think of her, and of so many people who have sacrificed so much for me to be here. I can’t throw that away.”

The British Army won the Public Sector Equality Award at last year’s PinkNews Awards for its work to modernise on LGBT issues.

Also featured in Stonewall’s campaign is Gina Denham, a transgender police sergeant in Essex Police.

British Army officials confront homophobia in new Stonewall campaign

The police officer explained how difficult it had been to be trans in the police force, before joining Essex police.

She said: “I think it’s important to celebrate how important allies are to the LGBT community. Those allies who stood by my side during the very early stages of my transition made a real difference to my self-esteem and sense of belonging. Simply being by my side meant so much to me.

“The way Essex Police showed flexibility in adapting to the change in my circumstances really helped my confidence. 20 years ago, I worked for a different force and was told ‘Don’t talk about being trans, people don’t want to hear it. You make people feel uncomfortable’.

“It confirmed to me that I would get no support, so I didn’t transition any further. But Essex Police were so supportive. In the early stages of my transit, they allowed me to have two warrant cards – one when I was presenting as male at work, and one for me when I was off duty as myself.

“The mantra, ‘What can we do to help?’, more or less became their guiding principle as things moved forward for me.

“Straight allies can really influence other people too. The best way I’ve seen this is when they have corrected people who use my birthname, or incorrect gender pronouns.

“Straight allies can really influence other people too. The best way I’ve seen this is when they have corrected people who use my birthname, or incorrect gender pronouns when talking about me.

“Doing that is an education: it demonstrates to those people that not everybody shares their closed-minded values and beliefs, and they are the minority that need to change.

“I think the biggest thing that needs to happen for real equality in the UK is equality of gender – not just transgender. On marriage certificates, it only allows for the father’s name to be present. It’s been like this since 1837. When my daughter gets married her certificate will say ‘Father: Gina Denham’.

“It’s time to change the system.”

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall, said: “While we have come a long way in the past 25 years, it is clear there is still a huge amount of work we need to do before all LGBT people can feel safe, included and free to be themselves in Britain today.

“This report warns against complacency, and stands as a call to action for everyone who supports equality.

“We now need to work together, to bring forward the day when no individual faces hatred or discrimination simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“At Stonewall, we want everyone across Britain who feels impacted by reading this report to join our campaign and pledge to come out for LGBT people everywhere, as visible allies.

“Together we can create a world where LGBT people are accepted without exception.”