Gay Royal Navy officer awarded more than £45,000 after being outed: ‘It made me feel sub-human’

Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines

A gay Royal Navy officer has been awarded more than £45,000 after being outed to his colleagues following a dispute over army accommodation. 

The serviceman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, successfully argued that the Royal Navy breached the Equality Act by cutting the types of accommodation it offered single men to just one, while giving married couples the option of two to choose from. 

Employment Judge Martha Street awarded the serviceman £46,959 and the tribunal urged the minister of defence to work to ensure “compliance with their own diversity and inclusion polices”, rather than taking a “tick box” approach to equality with “no culture of understanding”.

Officer was made to feel ‘sub-human’

During the hearing the officer said: “[It] makes me feel that somehow I am sub-human and not worthy of the consideration that others would receive.”

The officer explained that he had been discriminated against by the Royal Navy and claimed that as a result of a housing dispute he had to disclose his sexuality to colleagues. 

Royal Navy guidelines on the provision of housing for officers were found by the tribunal to have “a disproportionate effect on the group of service personnel who identify as gay” as members of the LGBTQ+ community are “less likely to be married or in a civil partnership than heterosexual service personnel,” The Telegraph reported. 

The officer was described as a “high-flyer with an impressive range of skills and qualities” who displayed “consistently high performance”, and the tribunal heard that after being assigned to the Ministry of Defence site at Abbey Wood near Bristol in July 2017, the officer applied for accommodation in central Bristol. 

But following his request the officer said he was offered unsuitable accommodation which “failed to take proper account of his circumstances”.

Forced into a ‘difficult’ situation  

The officer was then forced into the “difficult” situation of explaining his sexual orientation for the first time to senior officers in the team. 

He sent an email flagging the housing issues to his superiors which was then circulated to other officers, revealing that he was gay against his wishes. 

The Royal Navy argued that its 2016 decision to change its housing policy had been done for cost reasons, but this was rejected by the employment judge. 

Judge Street said: “LGB service personnel were disproportionately affected by the loss of choice of substitute service accommodation imposed on those entitled to single substitute service accommodation and were disadvantaged by the lack of choice.”

In 2019, retired lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy, Mandy McBain MBE, opened up out about her experience as a gay woman in the British armed forces, where she said she had to live a “double life”. 

That same year the Royal New Zealand Navy announced inclusive guidelines to allowed its personnel to wear makeup and nail varnish, regardless of gender.