The LGBT+ in the Armed Forces session of our Together We CAN Make A Difference conference for 2021 was well attended from different organisations bought together via MS Teams.
It was hard to hear some of the experiences shared but there is amazing work being accomplished and led nationally by Fighting with Pride on behalf of the Armed Forces community as a whole.
This work is also reflected in the serving personnel communities by the specific arms (see list) of the Armed Forces and this was highlighted at the event by the Army LGBT+ Network.
The presentations from the session can be viewed below:
The Network also received a number of nominations for Awards for support to the LGBT+ community and we are pleased to announce the following winners:
Lance Corporal Hamish Gorsuch-Wright
Hamish has been an exceptional ally for the Army LGBT+ Network. As a Junior NCO he stands out from his peers by visibly participating in championing LGBT+ inclusion. With wit and humour, he is able to share his story of why he got involved in International Gay Rugby, teams who play for more than a game - they play to challenge stereotypes, to provide inclusive teams regardless of ability and most importantly a safe space for those who may not otherwise have such a space. Transferring this lesson to the Army, Hamish has been the most junior and yet most visible ally for the LGBT+ community. His endless enthusiasm to challenge inequity, understand the lived experience of personnel and encourage people to support one another demonstrates the difference he can make. Allies, like Hamish, make such a difference - making such a personal connection with people and through thought-provoking examples helps to challenge the status-quo triggers change. Hamish embodies the Values and Standards of the British Army and leads by example - a brilliant example for others to follow.
Nominations for awards also included the following candidates and we would like to thank them for their support to the LGBT+ community within the Armed Forces community.
Andy Bigginton, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS)
Andy is an active Ally of the Services LGBT+ Network combining the AFN Service Champion elements whenever possible. For example, Armed Forces Day 2020 coincided with a Virtual Global Pride event. Andy incorporated the Service LGBT+ Network Lead, who is also a Veteran, into launching both events for KFRS. For the launch of Armed Forces Day, he arranged for the Lord Mayor, PWRR Commanding Officer and Royal British Legion to unveil the Armed Forces Day Flag at the Fire Station with a suitably socially distanced parade. Given the location of Canterbury Fire Station on the city's ring road he attracted community interest, that otherwise may not have realised the significance of the day. He has always supported Pride events pre-Covid and the network. Moreover, he has used his own initiative to set up the LGBT+ drop in sessions at Canterbury Fire Station during February 2020 LGBT+ History Month for students and local residents. Additionally he helped administer the LGBT+ Embracing Difference CPD event, which included both Service personnel and partner agencies. Other aspects which have crossed over between supporting the Armed Forces, LGBT+ Network and wider community included participation in the Canadian Torch of Remembrance, when Veterans Affairs Canada with the Torch of Remembrance were encouraging support to remember the Canadian fallen in order to create a montage for Armistice Day. The KFRS entry made it into the final memorial presentation. In broad terms as current member of the Emergency Services, Andy seeks to support KFRS in its engagement with the Armed Forces, alongside demonstrating values and behaviours in support of Equality and Diversity, specifically those who may identify as LGBT+.
Andy receiving his Award from Sir Peter J Field Esq Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex accompanied by the High Sheriff Miles Jenner DL and Mark Rist, Director of Operations at Kent Fire & Rescue Service at the event on 20 July 2021. (Photo credit: Stewart Turkington Photography)