New research by Northumbria University has found the military ban on gay people, which only ended in 2000, impacted on LGBTQ+ veterans' mental health, job prospects and housing.
The report, Lost and Found - the LGBT+ Veteran Community and the impacts of the Gay Ban, involved carrying out extensive interviews with more than 100 veterans who had been impacted by the ban.
Vito Ward, originally from Prudhoe, Northumberland, served in the Royal Navy, but was forced to keep her sexuality a secret.
She told ITV News Tyne Tees that she was hauled into an office and told to put her cap on. Thinking she was about to get promoted, she was dismissed because it had been discovered she had sent letters to another female in the Navy.
She said: "You feel ashamed. You know, I couldn’t come out to my parents. I had to lie and that didn’t sit with me. I’m sure I’ve told porkies in the past, but not the lie about who I am, and why, and what had happened to me. That's a sense of shame."
The Northumbria University report found:
86 per cent felt dismissal affected their mental health
74 per cent felt it impacted negatively on their finances
82 per cent experienced intrusive investigations
72 per cent felt 'vilified' or 'treated like a criminal'
65 per cent felt employment prospects affected
56 per cent felt housing was impacted
84.4 per cent felt lonely
Dr Gill McGill from the university said: "Perhaps they’re not living the life that they wanted to live, whether that’s where they live, how they live, their opportunities for what they do in the future, it has had such a far reaching impact long term on their lives, so it’s incredibly difficult for them to reconcile some of those things."
The research, which was carried out in conjunction with the charity Fighting with Pride, comes ahead of the publication of an independent review into the impacts of the ban, with campaigners calling for a government apology and compensation.
Caroline Paige, from the charity, said: "Some of our veterans, they will just want an apology and that’s all they’re looking for. Others are in real need for financial support.
"I believe the government has a moral responsibility to pay compensation to the veterans, because it was the government’s responsibility to look after its veterans. There’s an Armed Forces Covenant, there’s a duty for the nation to look after its veterans and that failed the LGBT veterans before 2000."
The government said the treatment of the LGBTQ+ veterans pre-2000 was unacceptable and does not reflect today’s armed forces.
A government spokesperson said: "We are proud of our LGBT+ veterans and grateful for their service in defence of our nation. We can confirm that Lord Etherton has concluded his independent review and submitted his report to the Government.
"In line with the terms of reference we will carefully consider the findings and respond in due course."
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