Sheffield woman demands apology for military’s treatment of gay people

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By Jamie Morrell

A Sheffield woman has demanded an apology from the Ministry of Defence for what she claims was the mistreatment of gay people serving in the UK Armed Forces during the 1980s and 90s.

Jacqui De La Maziere says she was interrogated and dismissed from the Armed Forces, and left homeless in 1992.

Ms De La Maziere said:  “Trying to sign on in an open plan job centre whilst distressed and breaking down when asked the reason for your unemployment is something I will never forget.”

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people were not allowed to serve openly in the UK Armed Forces until 2000.

Many of those dismissed have struggled to maintain successful careers since, due to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in the workplace.

The petition that Ms De La Maziere has set up to demand an apology currently stands at 355 signatures, and has gained support from Stephen Fry and the LGBT groups of Sheffield’s Universities. 

She added: “Many of us struggle with internalised homophobia – we were young when we were investigated, in our late teens or early 20s, a definitive time for forming self-identity. Many of us were forced to come out to parents, whilst still not even identifying as gay and struggling to come to terms with our sexuality.”

The Ministry of Defence issued an apology in 2007, but for Ms De la Maziere and others who had been affected, it wasn’t enough.

Ms De La Maziere said: “The apology is a watered down version of a policy statement. It basically says ‘well that was our policy, and it’s a shame, but tough’. The apology isn’t individualised, it isn’t personal.

“I really don’t understand what is so difficult about drafting and sending a letter and issuing it personally to all those dismissed, with perhaps a face to face apology for us at a meeting somewhere.” 

Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central MP, asked Parliament in October 2015 what plans the Ministry of Defence had to acknowledge and compensate for the damage caused to individuals as a result of the former ban on homosexual people serving in the UK Armed Forces.

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP and Minister for Armed Forces, replied: “Since 2000, we have been working to create a more inclusive culture where everyone feels valued, regardless of their sexuality. Compensation was awarded in four cases. There are no plans to provide further compensation.”

“It’s a stain on our military history. I don’t feel there’s an appreciation of the mental health impact that an apology would make to individuals who are still suffering today” said Ms De La Maziere.

The petition is available to sign here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121652

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