“Operational effectiveness is at the top of the pile” of reasons, said Lieutenant General James Everard in an interview with the Financial Times. “Diverse teams, well led are far more effective than bog-standard teams.”
The UK dropped its ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people openly serving back in 2000, but lately it’s been actively encouraging their recruitment as it seeks to adapt to the times.
“[Diversity] in our ranks gives us a breadth of understanding and capability we don’t get in any other way,” Lt Gen Everard says. “We need to reach into [places] that probably people would have said were non-traditional — away from the working class of Middesborough and all that sort of stuff and into a much more diverse and broader range of characters. That’s hugely important for us.”
Since the Ministry of Defense allowed LGBT service people to wear their uniforms at pride marches in 2008 for the first time, the armed forces have actively worked to alter the prevailing public opinion that they’re hostile towards sexual minorities.
“Like most problems, [fixing] the first 70 per cent is quite easy,” Lt Gen Everard says. “It’s closing out the last 30 per cent [which is hard] . . . and that’s to do with attitudes.”
So far, only 230 serving troops out of 80,000 have declared themselves as gay or bisexual.
“I think that’s probably woefully low but actually there are more people that come to the [LGBT] meetings that are gay than have declared they are gay — so that’s probably just a confidence thing,” Lt Gen Everard says.