Thursday July 27th 2017
I joined the military for the same reasons as many, not just for what the glossy brochure said. It was a deep sense of duty and the privilege to work alongside some of the finest people I’ve known; knowing that all the training, dangers and challenges we face together will make a difference in the world. To be part of something more important than myself.
When I came out as transgender in 2010, each of these things was foremost in my mind. I was an operational search and rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force at the time.
People’s lives depended on our ability to work as a team. We were often called upon in terrible weather, day or night. There was no room for error. Winching our paramedic to a stormy cliff face at night was not the time for awkwardness to get in the way of crew communication.
We were also on shift for 24 hours at a time, with just four of us on that day’s crew. In all senses, you just had to get on well. I wasn’t going to let something like my gender get in the way of my work and my colleagues absolutely deserved my professionalism.
In many ways, this clear focus on the task helped my colleagues and I overcome any potential eggshells. Doing the job mattered more than whether one of us was trans. Certainly, the people we rescued cared little if one of the crew was trans. Working with the men and women of the SAR community has been one of the greatest privileges of my life, and I will always be thankful that no one let fear of difference get in the way of that and all we achieved.
Being trans wasn’t something I could avoid, though I had tried almost to the point of breaking for 27 years. Eventually I had no alternative than to accept myself. Hiding myself from the world was costing too much.