Lesbian Veteran Fired From British Military Welcomed Back After 40 Years

Getting fired for being lesbian left Jean Macdonald deeply scarred for a long time, with, and she was eventually diagnosed with complex PTSD.

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Almost forty years ago, Jean Macdonald had a promising future ahead of her as a lance corporal in the Women’s Royal Army Corps in Shropshire, England. But after getting singled out for being a lesbian, she was forced to leave her bright career behind.

Now, Jean has finally returned to her rightful place in the military. And the British Ministry of Defence wants to make amends – in light of honouring queer inclusivity.

Dear Straight People,

Before the year 2000, queer individuals were strictly prohibited from serving in the military. According to the 66-year-old war veteran, brutal “witch hunts” for members of the LGBTQ+ community were “quite terrifying” during her service. 

Despite a promotion on the horizon, Jean was dismissed from the Armed Forces in 1981 when she was singled out by the Specialist Intelligence Branch for being a lesbian. 

They told her “We’re going to find you out”, before forcing her to bear witness as they combed through her room and her personal belongings.

They took my Tina Turner poster because they said that meant I was gay, because I liked Tina Turner.

They took my pyjamas, they said they were men’s. They took letters, photographs. It was almost like you had lesbian written on your forehead.”

Jean Macdonald

In 2022, Jean worked with a handful of other veterans in an effort to dig up documents surrounding the military police’s investigations and interrogations, only to be told the files were deleted in 2010.

The aftermath of systemic discrimination

These experiences left Jean deeply scarred for a long time, with permanent repercussions on her mental health. She was eventually diagnosed with complex PTSD.

All of a sudden, you’ve lost your career, your love and your pride of serving your country.”

Jean Macdonald

For “fear of being turned away”, Jean dared not approach veteran’s charities in the last four decades and was left to struggle in isolation without the support she needed.

However, she experienced a turnaround in the last 18 months. Via local charities Fighting with Pride and Salute Her, Jean managed to reconnect with fellow queer veterans and successfully reclaim her veteran status. It was a much needed boost of confidence and hope.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their help.”

Jean Macdonald

Justice for queer military veterans

In 2021 and 2022, Jean was an attendee of services at the Cenotaph with Fighting with Pride, making history as the first LGBT veteran to make a public appearance there. She expressed gratitude at being “welcomed back into the military family”.

For the British Ministry of Defence, this is only the first step towards ensuring members of the LGBTQ+ community receive equal rights in the military.

“We deeply regret LGBT+ members serving in defence suffered injustice as a consequence. Our priority now is to understand the full impact of the historic ban and find appropriate ways to address the wrongs of the past.” 

Spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence

Hopefully, this sets a precedent to champion equality for all queer veterans.

Written by Rochelle Lee


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