Aussie gay soldiers still reporting harassment
It’s been more than 20 years since gays and lesbians have been able to serve openly in Australia’s military but a new report in Australia’s Army Journal says homophobia is still rife, with 1 in 10 LGBTI people encountering harassment.
The report by Captain Dominic Lopez, an openly gay soldier with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, uncovered some alarming statistics. Lopez says he was inspired to write the piece after the Army Journal published an article on gay and lesbian personnel serving during WWII.
In the process of conducting interviews for his report, Lopez discovered one in three LGBTI people serving chose not to reveal their sexuality for fears it may affect their career path or result in harassment; and one in ten had experienced homophobia.
‘To understand what life is like for a cross-section of gay soldiers, I asked Army members from the Defense Gay and Lesbian Information Service to share with me the reality of their service life,” writes Lopez. “Their responses have been paraphrased for this article. Their experiences are positive and negative, funny, sad and distressing. They are men and women in training institutions, units and on deployment. They are various ranks, corps and ages.”
Lopez said soldiers often concealed they were gay to avoid a hostile work environment and those that were comfortable coming out were most likely to conform to the military ideal. He believed harassment may be at much higher numbers than he’d encountered.
“I accept that for many reasons this number may not represent the reality across the Army, as victims of abuse, particularly recent abuse, were unlikely to share their experiences with me. Nonetheless, this group shows that discrimination and harassment is a reality for some gay soldiers in the Army today,” said Lopez.
“Soldiers concealed the fact that they were gay in order to navigate their way through an environment they regarded as hostile to their sexuality,’ Lopez commented. ‘In each case these servicemen and servicewomen maintained a strict delineation between their professional and personal life to avoid being ‘outed’ in the workplace.”
Several LGBTI personnel said the Army was still playing catch up with the reality of LGBT in the military and that LGBTI needed to “prove themselves” to be accepted.