What does it mean to be an ally within the LGBTQ+ community is a question I have been asked many times since I have highlighted myself as an Ally; it is supporting and encouraging LGBTQ+ people to be themselves, to talk openly about their feelings and where they want to be within themselves and in life going forward in a non judgemental way. It does help to have an understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, something I have worked hard to do; the hardest part initially was understanding the language and how some terms can be unintentionally offensive. It is a challenge to get many members of the community to open up, especially in a military community. Many people still have a "bottle it up" attitude which doesn’t help in any situation. I have found great satisfaction in helping someone be comfortable with who they are and in turn be happier with their everyday life as they can see that in 2020 everyone can be who they want to be without fear of judgement.
Whilst I have been supporting the LGBTQ+ community I have received comments from people in the service both positive and negative, simple things from comments about my email signature containing the fact I am an Ally, to snide comments at work, mostly this has been as a result in a lack of understanding, rightfully, most have changed their perspective after discussion. Overall the support that the CoC provide you and the wider unit personnel is excellent and valued. I work in a phase one training environment and I believe being an LGBT Ally has made me more approachable to recruits and put families at ease knowing that staff have a good understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.
It can be hard to find support, but there are support networks out there, like a lot of things in the military, it's knowing the right people who can point you in the right direction. I have been very fortunate that I have friends and colleagues who are well connected within the military and wider LGBTQ+ network which has greatly helped me gain knowledge and understanding of the community and the support services available. When I was at RAFC Cranwell there was a strong LGBT Ally network with people of a similar mindset, it was headed up by the Station Warrant Officer and supported by the Commandant, it was important to have the visible support come from the highest levels. The Network shared ideas and advertised around the unit that there was a support network consisting of different ranks and trades for people to support them. I think this is something that every unit should adopt as the benefits to those on unit are immeasurable.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic there has been constant support for everyone from the LGBTQ+ community, there are a number of support networks and people that are not only for those in the community but the whole of the Armed Forces Family, there is always time no matter how busy things get to discuss life's stresses and issues. I make a habit of being available whenever people need for a conversation that will be none judgemental. Anyone worried about not being able to be themselves whilst serving in the Military need not worry, I'm proud that the RAF is one of the most inclusive and diverse employers the UK has to offer.
Anyone wanting to join the RAF or any of the Armed Forces, my advice would be to go for it, the Armed Forces is an excellent opportunity to better yourself and meet some interesting people and develop yourself. The Armed Forces are very understanding of various backgrounds and sexuality and strives to be diverse and inclusive. If you are someone who wants to get the job done and have a professional mindset you will be welcomed. We want more people to join the constantly growing LGBTQ+ community within the Armed Forces so that everyone regardless of rank and background will be supported.