It’s been a remarkable year to be a Co-Chair of the Army’s LGBT+ Network. I love my Army career - every post has been a new experience, and, most importantly, I’ve always been surrounded by brilliant people. Every role has had something special about it, with a particular highlight of being the REME Corps Colonel between 2016-2018, which included the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the formation of my Corps.
When I joined the Army in 1995, Defence policy meant that I could have been discharged because I was gay. That meant I had to live two separate lives, one in work and one in private. Since 2000 when LGB people were allowed to serve, I have increasingly been able to be my whole self at work. Attitudes have changed significantly, and I know that my relationship with my wife is just as accepted as anyone else’s relationship. However, I am conscious that there will be a range of attitudes and beliefs amongst any group of people, and the Army is no different.
The LGBT+ network and our allies have a role, and there is still work to do Colonel Clare Phillips
In 2020, I was honoured to be invited to join the LGBT+ Network as a Co-Chair. The Network aims to support Army soldiers and officers who are members of the LGBT+ community and the Army’s chain of command. We are closely linked with our equivalent networks in the RAF, RN, civil service and other partners across Defence industries which provides a wide base of experience and knowledge and together the Networks represent the LGBT+ community across Defence. This year the Army Network’s theme is around ‘bringing your whole self to work’, which is all about feeling safe and secure in the workplace with the ambition that every member of the LGBT+ community can feeling confident and respected regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Part of the Network’s role is to provide advice and guidance to anyone who finds that they are being bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Some people today believe that the need to have an LGBT+ Network has passed. Sadly, I know that we are not there yet. For as long as I might feel afraid to hold hands with the person I love, I may feel nervous about ‘coming out’ every time I meet somebody new, and I could feel concerned about bringing my wife to an official social occasion then... the Network and our allies have a role, and there is still work to do.
When I look back on how isolated I felt when I had to hide a part of myself at work, it reminds me of the importance of the Network and the incredible people who came before me and fought hard for cultural change. Their hard work enabled me to have the freedoms and opportunities that I and our amazing Network members enjoy today. The most important lesson that I have learnt over the years, and particular over the last year when speaking with so many people from every element of the LGBT+ community, is really simple and, I think, is a pretty good rule for life in general: Love is Love.