Lesbians have made and continue to make an important contribution to Australia’s defence force.
A research project wants to look into their stories.
Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women have a long history of serving in the Australian military, even though there was an official ban on their service until 1992. Some women managed to keep their sexuality a secret, while others were eventually forced out of the military. Since the lifting of the ban in 1992, growing numbers of women are openly enlisting and serving, making an important contribution to Australia’s defence.
A new history project is interested in uncovering the experiences of these women, from the end of the Second World War until the present day.
Dr Shirleene Robinson, one of the researchers on the project, explains that the project is interested in hearing from lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women who served in any branch of the armed services at any time from 1945 to the present day.
“We expect that there will be both positive and negative experiences. Some women were forced to leave in really tragic circumstances once their sexuality became known. Other women did really well for themselves in the military environment and were able to meet friends and form relationships.”
Robinson acknowledges that the Australian Defence Force has evolved considerably on the issue of LGBTI service over time. “We want to hear from women who served at a time when it was risky to be open about their sexuality, and we also want to hear from women who have served in more recent years. There are some really important stories that we would like to record to make sure this important history is recorded for future generations.”
Later this year, researchers on the project will be conducting oral history interviews with lesbian, bisexual and queer women who would like to discuss their experiences in the military.