The Impact of the Historic Policy to Ban Homosexuality in the UK Armed Forces: The Lived Experience of LGBT + Veterans

Alison Osborne*, Gill McGill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Until 12 January 2000, the UK Armed Forces retained a policy of discharging all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender personnel under exemptive military laws. The so-called ‘gay ban’ was enforced with the rationale that homosexuality was incompatible with military service. Little research has explored the experiences of LGBT + veterans or the impact of the ‘gay ban’ policy. Methods: In 2021, 15 LGBT + veterans who had been affected by the ‘gay ban’ participated in semi-structured interviews lasting around 90 minutes. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Five overarching themes were identified in exploring the experiences and impact of the ‘gay ban’ policy: LGBT + identity struggle; camouflage; intense investigative process; extraction, exclusion and loss; and the personal impact. Conclusions: Serving in the UK Armed Forces during this homosexuality ban policy affected the social, health and well-being of LGBT + veterans. The necessity for LGBT + veterans to hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, the impact of investigations, loss of careers and alienation have led to long-term experiences of social isolation, loneliness due to barriers to connecting to others and difficulties around health and well-being. Policy Implications: LGBT + veteran vulnerability and traumatic experiences need to be understood in the context of help-seeking behaviour and service provision. The implications for policy change include achieving health and social care equity in relation to access to support services. Support services need to ensure that there is an awareness of the impact of serving under the discriminatory ‘gay ban’ policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Early online date29 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Feb 2024

Cite this