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Military celebrate diversity at UK Pride

Army personnel will celebrate their diversity on Saturday 1 July when they march in the UK’s biggest gay pride event in London.

Pride in London provides a platform to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and campaign for the freedoms that will allow everyone to live their lives without discrimination.

Joining the Army on the parade will be civilian defence staff and military personnel from the RAF and Navy.

Commenting on the parade, tech-savvy Lance Corporal Rowley who identifies as non-binary said: "Pride shows the acceptance of today, that you will always be welcome no matter who you are and positively promotes inclusivity and equality in all ways of life, being work or at home."

A member of 16 Signal Regiment, Lance Corporal Rowley provides the vital communication links to enable voice, data, and video to be shared on the battlefield. 

Prior to joining the Army five years ago, Lance Corporal Rowley worked as a cocktail and gin expert but decided to join the Army to gain qualifications and to travel.

“I came out as bisexual back in 2020. At the time, I didn’t really talk about it but if someone asked me, I wouldn’t lie about it. Since coming out in the Army, my confidence has grown massively. I identified as non-binary in early 2022 and now identify with the pro-nouns they/them. Again, since then my confidence has grown massively, and I'm more comfortable around people. 

“My friends have been great. We are a close-knit group, we work together, live together, and socialise together. They don’t really care; they just see me.

“I think for some people it’s a shock. Lots of people haven’t met anyone who identifies as non-binary, so I get asked lots of questions. It doesn’t surprise me, and its great people are interested. There are a few people I’ve come across who are not comfortable with it, but that’s always going to be the case wherever you work.”

Currently based at Beacon Barracks in Stafford, Lance Corporal Rowley will shortly be packing kit for a six-month deployment to the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK), a permanent training support unit based mainly in Nanyuki.

BATUK provides demanding training to exercising units preparing to deploy on operations or assume high-readiness tasks.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been on a three-month exercise to Texas and went on exercise to Germany, but this is my first six-month deployment.”

Lance Corporal Rowley will be responsible for maintaining the fleet of bowman vehicles for the exercising troops and accompanying the Bowman operators on exercise. Bowman radios provide secure, integrated voice data services to dismounted soldiers, individual vehicles, and command HQs up to Divisional level.

Lance Corporal Rowley intends to make the most of the opportunities the Army presents and, as an online game player, has joined the Army’s ESports team. The Electronic sports community has almost 4,000 members, made up of serving soldiers, veterans, partners and dependants.

Joining the Army has given Lance Corporal Rowley several firsts, including snowboarding and clay pigeon shooting. 

“I represented the Army at the Insomnia Gaming Festival at the NEC in Birmingham – it’s a huge gaming event,” said Lance Corporal Rowley.

“I’d only just finished my trade training and been with my regiment a few days, when I was asked if I wanted to go snowboarding. 

“Everything is going well at the moment and I’m looking forward to the second half of the year.”

Army personnel first marched in the Pride in London event in 2008 and have taken part every year since.

The ban on LGBT personnel serving in the military was lifted in January 2000. Since then, the Ministry of Defence has worked hard to create inclusive workplaces that welcome and support all staff, irrespective of sexual orientation.

LGBT+ personnel have the same terms and conditions as everyone else; this includes maternity benefits and pension arrangements for same-sex spouses or civil partners.

Any Army personnel who want specific advice or support ahead of coming out, or for any other LGBTQ+ matters are encouraged to contact their LGBTQ+ network. The Army network offers networking, support and advice and can be reached via email at [email protected]

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