Britain’s Navy Is Encouraging Gays and Lesbians to Enlist

Britain’s Navy Is Encouraging Gays and Lesbians to Enlist (NYT rss)

Five years after Britain lifted its ban on gays in the military, the Royal Navy has begun actively encouraging gays and lesbians to enlist and has pledged to make life easier for them when they do. The navy announced today that it had asked Stonewall, a group that lobbies for gay rights, to help it develop better strategies for recruiting and retaining gay and lesbian sailors. It said, too, that one such strategy may well be to advertise for recruits in gay magazines and newspapers.

Commodore Paul Docherty, director of naval life management, said the service wanted to change the atmosphere in the navy so that gays would feel comfortable working there. The current situation, where gays are not prohibited but where some feel intimidated nonetheless, does not go far enough, he said. “While some gays were confident to come out, others didn’t feel that the environment was necessarily accepting of them,” Commodore Docherty said in an interview.


Gays in the British military are subject to the same rules of sexual conduct as heterosexuals: no touching, no kissing, no flaunting of sexuality. Since 1991, naval women have been allowed to serve with men on ships, which operate under strict “no-sex” rules, and sailors in such close quarters have relied on what one naval official said was “common sense and good manners.”

In related news…..

‘Simpsons’ Animates Gay Nuptials, and a Debate (NYT rss)

In an episode titled “There’s Something About Marrying,” a longtime character on Fox’s 15-year hit – it was Marge Simpson’s sister Patty Bouvier, a closely held secret until the 8 p.m. broadcast – came out of the closet while Homer Simpson conducted dozens of same-sex weddings after small-town Springfield legalized the unions in a bid to increase tourism. As television’s longest-running situation comedy, “The Simpsons” is no stranger to hot-button social, religious and political issues, mocking wardrobe malfunctions, Hollywood liberals and born-again Christians, among other targets.

But when a show as mainstream and popular as this takes on one of the most divisive issues in American society, it is certain to attract attention. Bookmakers in the United States and England were taking bets as to which character would be revealed as homosexual, and whether there would be a kiss – a nod, perhaps, to the popular programming gimmick of having lesbian characters lock lips during sweeps periods like the current one.

I’m not sure which of these two events is more significant but they’re certainly inter-related. The British Navy is the cultural model for most Western navies, including our own. I’m not sure the Simpsons are a model for anything, but it’s certainly reflective of American pop culture.

While I’m not sure recruiting homosexuals qua homosexuals is needed, there’s some logic to it. I have long felt that the U.S. military made a huge mistake in the way it integrated women. Rather than recruiting a large base and putting them in the force, they did it piecemeal. A handful of women were admitted to each of the Service Academies in 1976, a handful into pilot training in the early 1990s, etc. As a result, they were doomed to be outcasts and oddities. Maybe getting a critical mass of acknowledged homosexuals into the force is the way to overcome the natural resistance to it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Re Simpsons, Patty was already semi-“outed” in a gay pride parade last season when she and Smithers spoke (sang?) from a “closeted gays” float (from inside of closet-like enclosures).

    My wife didn’t agree, thinking the sisters’ shared McGyver fetish proved neither could be gay.

    And as it often does, the show actually managed to throw a bone to both sides with Homer’s “I’ll marry anybody” wedding chapel scam.

  2. m says:

    Your last seven words say it all…