Hundreds of gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemen and women have willingly outed themselves on their military records in the UK.
Around 250 servicemen and 181 servicewomen said they are homosexual on files, while 86 men and 18 women were bisexual.
However, 829 men and 102 women chose to keep their sexuality secret – many because of fear of bullying, says a military source.
This first official audit came after the Ministry of Defence gave service personnel the option to reveal their sexual orientation in January.
An MoD spokesman said:
“The MoD proudly encourages diversity. Personnel are now encouraged to declare their orientation. Although this is not mandatory, collecting this data will give us a better understanding of the composition of our Armed Forces and help ensure policies fully support our personnel.”
Another military source applauded the news, but warned more must be done.
“The fact many troops feel confident enough to declare their sexuality on their personal documents is a major step forward in the right direction. But homophobic bullying still exists within the military and it is a problem, which isn’t going away. The armed forces need to ensure that they continue the good work because there is a lot more to be done.
The Ministry of Defence should not be complacent because some troops feel confident enough to declare their sexuality.”
Stonewall, however estimates there could be at least 10,000 LGBT troops serving in the UK armed forces, but many fearing abuse and prejudice, which stops them from coming out.
Recently lesbian soldier, Lance Bombardier Kerry Fletcher, won £124,000 in 2009 for sexual harassment that led to her quitting the Royal Artillery. And one general recently revealed he is preparing to out himself in protest over homophobic comments made by a colleague.
“I never considered outing myself until another very senior officer said he believed that admission of homosexuality by a senior officer would be career suicide. I actually felt like saying, ‘Actually I’m gay and it has never prevented me from serving Queen and country’. “I was furious, but in the end I let the comment pass. Over the last few weeks, I started to ask myself whether the time had come for someone of my rank to speak out and say you can serve your country at the highest levels as a gay man or woman.”