LGBT+ veteran says reclaiming medals is only first step in addressing 'appalling' injustices

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A woman in Lincoln, who became the first openly serving transgender officer in the British Armed Forces, says far more needs to be done to address the 'appalling' injustices faced by many LGBT+ veterans.

It comes as the Ministry of Defence announced on Tuesday that veterans will be able to reclaim medals which were confiscated from them.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it wanted to address a “historical wrong” after announcing any service person who had had their medals taken from them due to their sexuality could reclaim them.

Credit: MOD

Caroline Paige is the Joint Chief Executive of the charity Fighting With Pride, alongside Craig Jones.

The charity was formed last year, exactly 20 years after the so-called 'gay-ban' was lifted from the military. On the day the ban was lifted in 2000, Craig - who was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy - came out and led work to restore the Armed Forces Covenant for the serving LGBT+ community.

Caroline transitioned in the 1990s and found an ally in her medical officer. Together they convinced the military to let her stay in the Royal Air Force. It was a first, and one many were unhappy about at the time. But determined to prove doubters wrong, Caroline went on to become a highly respected tactics specialist and received several commendations for exceptional service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Caroline said there are many people who were thrown out of the Armed Forces without any support and some found it hard to find other work afterwards. She said reclaiming confiscated medals should just be the start of addressing historical wrongs.

''LGBT+ veterans have been let down tremendously, really appallingly. People signed up to support their country, to defend their country, put their lives on the line, and they were cast out like they just didn't belong anywhere.''

Prior to 2000, many LGBT+ people were dismissed from the military, sometimes with a criminal record and sometimes without any pension rights.

Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Gregory is the CEO of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, and a Patron of Fighting With Pride. He said the past treatment of those who identify as LGBT+ is something the Armed Forced should be ''ashamed of.''

''It will take a long time for those people with well over twenty years of hurt to have the confidence to come forward.''

The Government has compensated 157 LGBT+ veterans who were discharged, but Fighting With Pride said there are thousands more people with similar experiences who feel lonely and isolated.

The charity has teamed up with Northumbria University to carry out research to find out where those veterans are, hear their stories and find out what their support needs are.