Event thanks veterans who led the way for LGBT service personnel

Corporal Alastair Smith, far left, with other attendees at last year's LGBT veterans' ball
Corporal Alastair Smith, far left, with other attendees at last year's LGBT veterans' ball
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SERVICE personnel and veterans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are being invited to the LGBT veterans ball.

The Army LGBT Forum, in conjunction with the Naval Services and Royal Air Force LGBT forums, will be hosting the event to show its respect and thanks to veterans who served at a time when being open and honest about their sexuality would mean intrusive investigation and subsequent discharge from the armed forces.

The armed forces today embraces talent regardless of sexuality, but we want to thank veterans who served at a time when they were not treated as equals in society

Corporal Alastair Smith

Corporal Alastair Smith, of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, is organising the event.

He said: ‘The armed forces today embraces talent regardless of sexuality, but we want to thank veterans who served, at a time when they were not treated as equals in society.

‘It is right to recognise them for their contributions when they were not only faced with armed conflict but also with the fear and retribution that would have ensued had they been identified as LGBT at a time when the culture of our workplace was very different.

‘In 2013, after the public media relating to the pardoning of Second World War code breaker Alan Turing, it was decided that more needed to be done to include veterans of the armed forces who had been discharged prior to 2000 when regulations had changed to allow people to serve openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, some of which had been intrusively investigated, embarrassed and forced to leave despite the support and acceptance of their peers and immediate superiors.

‘I stepped forward and offered to plan and run a summer ball to meet the occasion. The first event of its kind was held last year with 100 guests and raised £1,000 each for the Royal British Legion and the Albert Kennedy Trust. The guests were predominantly veterans of all three services, some who had left of their own choice and some who had been asked to leave when their sexuality had been discovered, ranging from junior soldiers to senior naval officers, nurses, clerks, infanteers and marines.’

The LGBT Veterans’ Summer Ball will be held at the Victoria Park Plaza Hotel in London and is open to veterans and serving members of the armed forces from across the Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant areas who identify as LGBT and supporters of the LGBT and military community.

The night will include a drinks reception, entertainment, a three-course dinner with music supplied by bands from the army and air force, speeches through the night from veterans and serving members who have contributed and experienced the most from the changes in regulations.

Tickets are £40 per person and all money raised will be split in donations to charities SSAFA and Broken Rainbow.

This year’s event is sponsored and supported by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and Gentoo. Sponsorship from other organisations is still needed.

For more information and to find out how to attend, e-mail smith.alastair@me.com or call 07970 785 913.