RAF veteran recalls being fired as government review into treatment of LGBT personnel launches
Carl Austin-Behan remembers being dismissed from the RAF like it was just yesterday.
In 1997, he was hauled in front of a commanding officer and RAF police, who proceeded to ask him if he had, in his words, "homosexual tendencies".
Up until this point, Dr Austin-Behan's military career had been "brilliant" he said - among his personal highlights are serving abroad and making the Queen’s honours list.
"I’d just got my promotion, I was about to sign up for 22 years and just because of my sexuality, I was kicked out,” he told ITV News.
At the age of 24, his military career was taken away from him.
Dr Austin-Behan is not alone - up until the year 2000, many veterans were expunged from the military amid a ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel.
On Wednesday, 22 years after the law was scrapped, the Cabinet Office launched an independent review which will hear the stories of those who were stripped of their jobs and medals.
The Office for Veterans’ Affairs, which is part of the Cabinet department, has pledged to work with charities after the review in order to improve support offered to veterans who were impacted by the ban. This includes many who faced criminal convictions, prison sentences, and “dismissals in disgrace”.
While welcoming the review, Armed Forces minister James Heappey apologised for the ban, calling it a “dark, dark chapter in the MOD’s history”. He added: “I think it’s utterly appalling that people who had the courage to serve the country they love weren’t also allowed to love the person they love.”
Today, Dr Austin-Behan lives with his husband and children in Manchester, and following a career in local politics, he became an LGBT+ advisor to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
Dr Austin-Behan hopes that after the review, LGBT+ veterans like himself, will be "welcomed back into the military family".
He added that there should also be a focus on the mental health and wellbeing of those impacted by the ban.
"People have suffered with mental health issues," he said.
"And people who ended up in military prisons need compensation. We need to restore and review pensions."Defence minister Leo Docherty insisted the review will ensure the government learns from veterans’ experiences. Dr Docherty said: “While the modern military embraces the LGBT community, it is important that we learn from the experiences of LGBT veterans who were affected by the pre-2000 ban. “This review will allow the voices of veterans to be heard and importantly will help us better tailor support to the community.” According to the Cabinet Office, the review’s chair will give further details on how veterans will be able to contribute to the review.