Lesbian navy veteran lived a double life

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A retired lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy said that if members of her community wanted to join the British armed forces then they were made to lie about who they are. Mandy McBain MBE joined the Royal Navy in 1986 and worked with the armed forces until 2012, before joining Stonewall as a client account manager for the defense and security sector. She was made an MBE in the 2012 New Year Honours list for her work on equality and inclusion within the Royal Navy. And even though homosexuality has already been legal for the civil UK citizens when she joined the navy, the armed forces continued to treat it as a crime up until 2000. She said that in the lead up to the ban being lifted on gay people serving in the military, there was a lot of debate on how it would affect the armed forces. Her senior officer, who did not know she was gay, told her to imagine that she would be forced to sleep in a mess deck with a lot of lesbians like it was something extremely dangerous, though it would hardly ever differ from sleeping in a mess deck with a lot of straight women. After 14 years of serving in the Royal Navy while closeted, when the ban was finally lifted in 2000 McBain said it felt as if “a huge weight had been lifted”, but she was not ready to come out because the environment in the navy was still too homophobic. When she finally found courage in herself to come out, she became chair of the first formal LGBT+ network for the Royal Navy. McBain married her wife, RAF squadron leader critical care nurse Sherry Conway, in 2016.

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