Anzac Day is an ambivalent experience for LGBTI people who have served in the Australian Defence Forces.
ACU historian Dr Noah Riseman told RN Drive on Anzac Day that many who served in the years when they had to keep their sexual orientation hidden don’t feel able to march with their units.
“There are some especially those who were kicked out during the ban who feel very uncomfortable. They don’t participate in dawn services, they don’t participate in parades.”
But Dr Riseman said currently serving LGBTI service people are creating new traditions that acknowledge the service of many, previously hidden LGBTI soldiers, sailors, airmen and women. Since 2015 they have laid a rainbow wreath at many major Anzac services and invited former service people to participate.
Until 1992 gays and lesbians in the military were frequently subject to witch hunts. “It was quite common for military police to try to find gays and lesbians in the military and once they found one they would take you into a room, they would intimidate you for hours on end asking you all sorts of intimate details about your sex life and the big thing that they were after was for you to name names and others.”
Overt exclusion ended in 1992 for lesbians and gays but not for transgender people who were not allowed to serve until 2010.
Discrimination also remained for same sex couples because the Armed Services refused to recognise their relationships. Service people could not take their same sex partners with them as they moved postings.
That changed in 2005 but even then the lack of marriage equality meant same sex relationships were not always recognised – a battle that was only won when same sex marriages became legal after last year’s protracted postal survey.