The Royal British Legion has opened its first branch dedicated to LGBTQ+ veterans, 19 years after a ban on LGBT people serving in the army was lifted.
The new branch will raise awareness of the contributions made by LGBTQ+ people serving in the armed forces, as well as offer a safe space for members to share their experiences.
Gay, bisexual and lesbian people have been allowed to serve in the army since the UK Government lifted the previous ban in 2000, however there are still concerns that LGBTQ+ people are under-represented within the armed forces.
Royal British Legion director of membership, Emma Cannings, said: “We know that people who identify as LGBTQ have historically been marginalised within the Armed Forces community, and as a result haven’t come forward for the help and support they’re entitled to.
“We hope that this new branch will bring the LGBTQ and Armed Forces communities together, to commemorate the sacrifices made by our LGBTQ veterans and serving personnel and ensure that our services are accessible to all those who need them.”
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Although there are LGBTQ+ support organisations within each of the separate armed forces, the Royal British Legion’s LGBTQ+ & Allies branch is the first to veteran organisation specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
Founding member Emma Miller-McCaffrey said: “I am proud to be married to my wife - a serving member of the Royal Navy, and I am proud of who I am as a gay woman. Becoming a member of the Legion’s LGBTQ branch allows me to be all of those things without judgement.
“It’s great to see the Legion reminding people that they are here to support all who served, regardless of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”
'More work to be done'
The move was also welcomed by leading LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, although they claimed there was still "work to be done".
A Stonewall spokesperson told talkRADIO: “The new branch is a really positive indication of how serious they are about making their services inclusive of all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.
“We know there is more work to be done before everyone feels free to be themselves and steps like this bring us closer to the day where everyone is accepted without exception.”
Words: Cormac Connelly-Smith