Trans ex-RAF navigator Caroline Paige named in New Year Honours 2024 

Caroline Paige

Trans former RAF navigator Caroline Paige, who is the first openly trans officer to serve in the UK Armed Forces, has received a 2024 New Year Honours.

Paige, who served in the RAF for 35 years, has become an MBE following her work to support LGBTQ+ veterans. 

The 64-year-old dedicated her award to those who had helped “deliver change” to the Armed Forces.

She told BBC Look North: “We’re seeing incredible change for the veterans. We’re working closely with all of the Armed Forces and they are really keen to show support as well.”

Paige joined the RAF in 1980, prior to her transition, as a Fast Jet and Battlefield Helicopter Navigator. She transitioned in 1999 and served another 16 years, becoming the first transgender officer to serve openly in the British Armed Forces.

The UK ban on gay and bisexual people serving in the military was lifted in 2000 and extended to trans members in 2014. 

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Paige, prior to her transition, said she was aware of the danger of being outed. 

“If you were outed, everything came crashing down, you’d be immediately removed [from the Armed Forces]. Overnight, you’d lose your job, your income, your friends, your accommodation, your family in most cases.

“I had this amazing job on fighter aircraft but all the time I was having to hide who I was.”

Following her own experiences, Paige set up the charity Fighting With Pride. 

She said: ”The Armed Forces charities that they went to wouldn’t support them because they were dismissed in disgrace. 

“They have lived with that, made to feel ashamed of themselves, or told they had brought shame on their regiment, or their ship, or their squadron.”

In 2017, Paige was among the women celebrated in a stunning photograph marking 100 years of women in the military.

She said at the time: “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.

“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.” 

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