ROYAL Navy sailors and Royal Marines will be flying the flag for the LGBT+ community tomorrow as they gear up to join the London Pride march.
Tomorrow’s celebration will mark the 10th year the armed forces have joined the parade – and the first time members of the navy’s elite amphibious fighting force, the Royal Marines, will be marching.
Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Mike Hill, one of the organisers of the navy’s involvement in Pride, said: ‘It has been almost 20 years since the ban on LGBT+ people serving in the military was lifted, but many people outside of the armed forces still think it’s an exclusively macho organisation.
‘That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines recognise there is strength in diversity, and the modern armed forces are welcoming of people from all backgrounds. We welcome the best talent in our ranks from all sexual orientations and gender identities.’
The naval contingent at Pride this year will be formed of members of Compass – the Navy’s sexual orientation and gender identity network which supports all those serving including reserves, civilians, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and all fighting arms of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
Petty Officer Sam Quinn, 23, is a Royal Navy air engineering technician based at HMS Sultan in Gosport. He said: ‘I am proud to be able to serve openly in the Royal Navy because we believe being yourself is important. I’m looking forward to representing the Navy at Pride this year, and I hope it sends a message to other people that it’s okay to join the armed forces or to come out.
‘People are encouraged to be themselves in the Royal Navy, regardless of sexual orientation, and for me that’s why it’s such a great job.’
The sailors and Royal Marines will march through central London on Saturday, before heading along Whitehall to salute the fallen at the Cenotaph in poignant recognition of the many LGBT+ people who have served Britain throughout history.
Marine Mike Johnson, 32, from Lincolnshire, is one of the Royal Marines who is taking part at Pride in London for the first time. He said: ‘I’m really looking forward to taking part. I haven’t marched before because, like most Royal Marines, I’ve been busy deployed on operations when Pride takes place.
‘I’ve done a tour of Afghanistan, and been deployed on multiple exercises. I know a few other marines who would like to join Pride this weekend who won’t be able to because they are deployed away and working hard.
‘I think it’s really important that LGBT+ people from the armed forces including myself attend events like this. I’m proud to work for an organisation which doesn’t treat me any differently and I want to show others that I can serve my country and be myself.’
The Royal Navy was the first defence organisation to join Stonewall as a Diversity Champion in 2005 and has continued to develop ties with its LGBT+ workforce through Compass, the Royal Navy’s LGBT+ staff network.
Petty Officer Samantha Kimberley-Hauff, 38, who is based at navy command headquarters in Portsmouth, will also be marching on Saturday. She said: ‘My sexuality has never been a barrier to joining or my career progression. Instead I have found for the first time I can be totally open about what I am and accepted for who I am.
‘It really is a great feeling to know you considered the same as everyone else, but also that your talents are appreciated.’