Operation Equality: A Befriending Service for LGBTQ+ Armed Forces, Veterans and their Families.

Until 2000, openly lesbian, gay and bi people were unable to serve in the armed forces. And whilst technically there was never a ban on trans people serving, there were no known out trans service personnel until 1999. Sadly those who were open - most often outed without consent - were dishonorably discharged. Many were then forced to come out under shocking and distressing circumstances to family members and friends, all while losing their livelihoods and personal connections within the forces.

Part of the act of “dishonourably discharging” personnel included stripping individuals of any titles, honors and medals that they had rightly earned through their service.

21 years after the historic ban was lifted, the government announced that they would begin to return these medals to such persons who they had been confiscated from.

Whilst there has been phenomenal work in recent years - often driven by frontline LGBT service personnel - to make the armed forces more inclusive and inviting towards our community, the impact of that ban still resonates today. So we’re thrilled to announce that we have launched a brand new befriending service for serving personnel, veterans and their families.

Titled Operation Equality, the befriending scheme is run by volunteers who have undergone training with the foundation, committed to providing potential users a safe and comfortable space to talk to someone on a weekly basis.

This is the first time the foundation has reached out to the specific Armed Forces community via a designated service and is something that we are enthusiastic about running.

The service was launched on Saturday 25th June on Armed Forces Day itself, listed as an official Armed Forces Day event with support from the Ministry of Defence, and we’d love to hear from you if you are part of the Armed Forces Community, either as a veteran or currently serving and identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Alternatively, if you are interested in learning more about this service, or are an organisation with strong military links that could provide some assistance, we welcome you to get in touch.

We know that some people in our community have complex feelings towards the armed forces, but this new service is for our LGBTQ+ family who were or are members of the armed forces and who may need support or help which they have felt unable to access through traditional means.

If you’d like to volunteer to be a part of the befriending service, or if you feel that you may be able to benefit from this service, please get in touch with our project co-ordinator – [email protected].