Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Teesside study explores armed forces lesbians

A Teesside academic who was dismissed from the military police for being gay has launched a study exploring the experiences of lesbians in all of the armed forces. Dr Joan Heggie was dismissed from the army in 1984 for being a lesbian at a time when there was a ban on homosexuality in the armed forces. Originally from Scotland, she is now working as a Research Fellow at the University of Teesside. She is seeking volunteers for a new project which will explore the experiences of lesbians in all of the armed forces, Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, since 2000 when the ban was lifted. Joan, 46 joined the Army aged 16, serving for eight years in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Cyprus. She later joined the Civil Service, leaving after ten years to enrol as a mature student. She went on to achieve a first degree, a Masters and a PhD. Joan said: “I was army barmy and devastated when I was dismissed for being gay. I lost my income, somewhere to live and friendship networks. I was also unemployed for six months and had to stay with friends because my parents didn’t know why I’d been dismissed.“The ban on homosexuality in the armed forces was lifted in 2000, meaning gay men and women could not face dismissal because of their sexuality. Joan’s new research will see if things have really improved for lesbians in the forces since the ban was lifted. Joan said: “My research is aimed at women who served before and after 2000, or who have even left the forces since then. The kinds of issues I’ll look at include; are lesbians now more open about their sexuality in the workplace? Do they take their partners to functions? Are the armed forces taking the new civil partnerships into consideration, for example with pensions or postings abroad for lesbian couples? “Respondents don’t need to be living or serving in the UK. Lesbians serving in all parts of the world, including Iraq, are welcome to reply.” All responses will be confidential and any details which could possibly lead to identification will be changed. To take part, respondents will need to complete a questionnaire, followed later by a face-to-face interview. For more details on Joan’s research email or call 01642 384478.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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