With Pride in London taking place on 2 July this year, we've spoken to some members of the British Army LGBT+ Network about their experiences as LGBT soldiers and officers in the Army.
Major Frazer Stark and Captain Laura Bettison have helped organise the Army contingent's involvement in Pride in London. In their own words, they explain what Pride means to them.
Major Frazer Stark
I first encountered the Army as an Officer Cadet at Aberdeen University and commissioned into 6 SCOTS in 2008. It was not until my last year in Uni that I came out to a couple of close friends but did not share with anyone in the Army; it never seemed a very pro-LGBT environment.
I received nothing but positive support. Major Frazer Stark
Halfway through my Regular Commissioning Course at Sandhurst, I decided to come out to my Instructors having already told some of my platoon who were all really supportive. It turned out one of my instructors had a gay brother and gay friends serving in the Army. When I told him I was unsure whether I should apply to join his Regiment, he was very clear that my sexuality would not be an issue.
I was still quite apprehensive about being out at my first unit but, over time, most of my fellow Officers became aware and some of my Non Commissioned Officers and soldiers as well. Again, I received nothing but positive support. This has continued to be the case in every role I have served in since.
Though there may be a few areas we can always improve on, the Army is a far better place to serve as an LGBT+ person than when I joined. I am now married and comfortable being out at work as an Infantry Officer.
Captain Laura Bettison
Hi, I’m Captain Laura Bettison. I commissioned into the Adjutant General's Corps (Educational and Training Services) in April 2016 at the age of 23.
My first two postings were at Army Education Centres in Edinburgh and York, and I spent my last job in Catterick working with the Gurkhas and travelling out to Nepal to run the education tests for Gurkha Selection. My current role is now in Adjutant General's Corps Headquarters.
The Army has played a big role in my coming out. Growing up, whilst it wasn’t wrong to be gay, it just wasn’t really spoken about in our community so was something I had never considered – I just thought there was no one I was attracted to. Going to Sandhurst, where there were some people who were openly out, helped me to realise my own feelings towards others. It wasn’t that I hadn’t found the right man, but more so that I wasn’t attracted to that gender!
Thanks to support of others, over time I have been able to come out to my family, be open with students if the conversation has come up whilst teaching, and I am also now in a happy relationship of almost 5 years. I think without the support of my peers and colleagues, especially during the early days in Phase 2 training, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable and confident in the person that I am today.