LGB Female Veterans’ Experience of Military Service During the “Gay Ban”: A Qualitative Study
Biscoe N., Hendrikx LJ., Williamson V., Murphy D.
Introduction: Until 2000, the UK Armed Forces implemented a “gay ban” that led to the investigation and discharge of thousands of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) veterans. Yet, the experiences of those who served during the ban remain unknown. According to the minority stress model, individuals may face specific stressors related to both their gender and sexual minority status. Thus, the present study investigated the military experiences of female veterans who identify as LGB and who served during the ban. Methods: Female LGB veterans (N = 10) were recruited from a larger cohort of female veterans who previously took part in a survey with a UK national veteran mental health charity. Participants were interviewed online using MS Teams between March and May 2022. A semi-structured interview method was employed to explore participants’ experiences of being LGB within the military as well as perceived differential treatment. Thematic qualitative analysis was used to identify key themes. Results: Three overarching and seven subthemes were identified, reflecting the risk of being found out, the experience of negative treatment, and possible buffering factors. Conclusions: Female LGB veterans who served under the “gay ban” faced negative experiences, including fear and distress, sexism, and interpersonal and institutional discrimination related to their (perceived) sexual orientation. In addition to experiencing negative treatment during service similar to non-LGB female veterans, LGB female veterans may face an elevated risk of being targeted and additionally experience sexual orientation discrimination. Findings of the current study are in line with the minority stress model. Policy Implications: The current findings correspond with US evidence of ongoing negative treatment of LGB serving personnel. Together, this should encourage further investigation of ongoing negative treatment of LGB females within the UK Armed Forces, adaptations of veteran services to address unmet needs of female LGB veterans, and appropriate training to combat negative differential treatment of LGB female serving personnel.