The RAF aim to be an inclusive organisation; where every individual is supported, valued and empowered to be themselves, and can reach their full potential while contributing to the delivery of Air Power irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.
As Pride Month draws to a close, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, recorded his own personal message to Whole Force personnel. Please click the image below to view the video message.
Below is also the Tweet sent by Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston.
As #PrideMonth2021 draws to a close, @ChiefofAirStaff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, has recorded his own personal message for Whole Force personnel.
Check out a series of Pride Memories posted this month on @RAF_LGBT. pic.twitter.com/nxdXjaDiMB
— Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForce) June 28, 2021
Additionally, the RAF LGBT+ Freedom Network continues to work with the RAF Diversity & Inclusion team on many ongoing projects, such as gender-neutral language in our polices and JSPs.
Even the pandemic has not stopped individuals who have turned to social media to ensure networks and support groups stay connected. Below are members of the LBGTQ+ community, who reflect on their favourite Pride memories.
Sergeant Craig Rudyk-Smith, Freedom Network Co-Vice Chair (Support), attended his first ever Pride March in 2008, after only just coming out to his friends and family. He recounts the immense pride in the people he walked besides amid deafening cheers, a memory that will stay with him forever, along with the friendships made that day.
“I cannot help but feel so proud of each and every serving LGBTQ+ member of our incredible Armed Forces. This Pride Month, I want to extend my thanks and my appreciation to every single one of them; to those who are visible and also to those who are not. Also, a big thank-you to the wonderful allies to our community. In the RAF we are blessed with allies at every single level throughout the organisation and I am very thankful for that!”
Sergeant Craig Rudyk-Smith
Freedom Network Co-Vice Chair (Support)
Sergeant Char Davies, Freedom Network Co-Chair, was fortunate enough to participate in a parade with Corporal Jess Ware, RAF Aerobatics Team Unit Rep and the RAF before COVID-19 hit. Jess is eager to attend more Parades when restrictions are lifted, having represented the RAF at events and being eager to catch up with the adventures of the friends she has met through them. The Military and Defence Civil Service always leave the Parade after Trafalgar Square and march down Whitehall and pay respects at the Cenotaph.
“Seeing how far we have progressed in the past 15 years has been a joy to watch.”
Sergeant Char Davies
Freedom Network Co-Chair
Char, Jess, and the LGBT+ RAF community celebrated 20 years of Trans-Inclusion in the RAF; since Flight Lieutenant Caroline Paige became the first openly transgender Officer in the UK Armed Forces in 1999.
“The crowds were so large and the cheers even bigger as we paraded through the streets! An experience I won’t forget in a hurry!”
Corporal Jess Ware
RAF Scampton / RAFAT Unit Rep
Senior Aircraftman Em Holness, RAF Brize Norton Unit Representative, has fond memories of London Pride in 2019. They led the RAF Contingent alongside Flight Lieutenant Caroline Paige, marking 20 years of Trans-inclusion in the RAF since 1999. Em also built strong relationships with other personnel from across the Forces LGBT+ community.
“As a non-binary person; wearing the uniform of the gender I identify with, in front of thousands of people in London was an unforgettable experience."
Senior Aircraftman Em Holness
RAF Brize Norton Unit Rep
Flying Officer Matt Smith, RAF Air Cadets, favourite memory was escorting his first ever Air Cadet through a parade.
“Helping all staff and cadets to be themselves and at their best is at the heart of what we do. Our staff and cadets come from all parts of society, so celebrating that diversity sends a powerful message – we embrace and value that diversity.”
Flying Officer Matt Smith
RAF Air Cadets
The RAF LGBT+ network have also reflected on the past, taking a look back at some of the achievements made in the past 22 years.
- 1999 – Flight Lieutenant Caroline Paige became first openly transgender officer in the UK Armed Forces.
- 2000 – The ban on LGB personnel serving in the military was lifted.
- 2005 – RAF couple became first same sex couple in military to have civil partnership.
- 2006 – Formation of RAF LGBT Forum to support LGBT+ personnel.
- 2007 – RAF first marched in London pride although not in uniform.
- 2008 – All 3 services march in London Pride in uniform.
- 2012 – RAF LGBT Freedom Network formed.
- 2013 – Unit rep initiative started so each RAF base has someone available to offer support and guidance on LGBT+ matters.
- 2014 – Gay marriage legalised.
- 2016 – Then Air Vice-Marshall Wigston conducts first same sex marriage on British military base.
- 2019 – Then Secretary of State for Defence Penny Mordant led the military contingent at London pride.
- 2020 – Reception at house of commons celebrating 20 years lifting of the ban.
- 2021 – First transgender recruit (reservist) completes phase 1 training.