A gay SAS solider says that LGBT personnel are missing out on promotion because of underlying anti-gay prejudice in the armed forces.
The elite member of Britain’s special forces unit, who has chosen to remain anonymous, claims that he was snubbed for promotion to sergeant despite his outstanding military record because of a culture of deeply-entrenched homophobia among senior army figures.
The Corporal, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was listed for promotion on his return form active duty last year, but while many of his fellow army comrades were successful in their pursuit of promotions, he was told he needed to gain more time on operations.
However, he claims that just three weeks after being turned down for promotion, a close friend told his that that fact he was gay had affected his chances.
He told The Telegraph: “Nobody will openly admit that they don’t want gays in 22 [the SAS Regiment], but the fact is that senior officers have concerns, not about our ability, but more about how our sexual lifestyle will impact on the regiment.
“I was very disappointed at the promotion results, I have more experience and good reports from frontline operations than any of my contemporaries, but a good mate told me that my sexuality was a concern.
“It is very much an old fashioned approach and often down to the view of senior officers.”
The soldier continued: “The promotion boards are held behind closed doors and I doubt very much that my sexuality would have been mentioned – nobody would risk openly being anti-gay.
“But after the meeting my mate was picking up some paperwork and heard two officers speaking in a derogatory term about me being gay. If any senior NCO [non-commissioned officer] had been aware I am sure they would have spoken up for me.”
The soldier’s allegations come despite a recent pledge by a top army official to rid Britain’s armed forces of anti-gay prejudice.
Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders, the commander in charge of all the British Army’s combat troops, said in February that being gay was “almost” no longer an issue in the Army, but that it could go further to ensure it had “expunged the last dregs of prejudice and intolerance.”
Last year the British Army was placed 32nd in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index for the top 100 LGBT inclusive employers across the UK, up from a lowly ranking position of 185th in 2012.
The SAS corporal, whop says he may have no choice but to leave the armed forces, added: “There have been gays in the regiment in the past and no one has said anything. Often because those concerned have not wanted to pursue promotion and have been happy to soldier on as Troopers or Corporals.
“It may be hard to appreciate in 2017 when we have such an open society, but parts of the Army are happy for you to be gay as long as you don’t mention it, some senior officers are very open about it, others are less willing to accept it.”
Responding to the allegations, an Army spokesperson said that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation was not tolerated within the force, and that complaints of anti-gay discrimination would be taken “very seriously”.
“The promotion board system is open and transparent and no weight at all is given to an individual’s sexuality,” the spokesperson said. But if this person feels they have a complaint it would be taken very seriously.”