What Sacrifice comes with love in the Military?

Troy and Jason. Photo: Supplied.

Life as a gay serviceman is a unique experience and one currently highlighted in a new Australian film. One Australian Defence Force member is experiencing both sides of the lens.

WORDS Matt Myers

Gays in the military have long struggled with acceptance, facing discrimination and even persecution, but recent times have seen a major shift in progressiveness.

The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule from the Bill Clinton era didn’t achieve much, yet in a roundabout way did gain worldwide attention to the issue. Over recent years the subject of LGBTQIA+ service men and women has continued to progress to varying degrees.

Considering many countries still have a ban on LGBTQIA+ people serving in the military, around 30 countries including Canada, Brazil, France, New Zealand, the UK and Australia allow ‘LGBT’ people.

However, while many countries such as Greece, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Ukraine allow the ‘LGB’, they exclude transgender people – the USA included.

Australia has come quite a distance considering our past. During the First World War queer people were labelled a ‘moral perversion’ and while homosexual acts between soldiers were a criminal offence, such relationships undeniably happened.

In the 1970s ‘confirmed homosexuals’ were given the choice to be honourably discharged or otherwise faced one of dishonour, and they were often under surveillance, labelled as ‘witch-hunts’.

Then there was the notorious time Bruce Ruxton, the then head of the Victorian Returned Servicemen’s League, stopped the Gay Ex-Services Association from laying a wreath at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

“I don’t know where all these gays and poofters have come from,” he stated.

But it all eventually turned a curve by 1992 when Prime Minister Paul Keating lifted the ban on gay and lesbian personnel serving in the armed forces.

David Mitchell, a Royal Australian Air Force sergeant, initiated G-Force, a defence force gay support group that eventually morphed into DEFGLIS, the Defence Force Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex Information Service.

Serving with pride

Troy of the Royal Australian Air Force is a former member of DEFGLIS and with over 21 years of service, has served domestically, and within Iraq, Pakistan, Timor Leste, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates.

“From a personal perspective, I knew I was different growing up,” says Troy.

“As a young adult, the word ‘gay’ didn’t mean much to me. At that time, as a gay person, I didn’t think I could be in a relationship, then once I came to terms with being gay it became increasingly difficult to separate it from work.

“At the time, being in a male-only workplace, I had a lot of reservations and feared coming out. It took me four years to work up the courage to say something and it wasn’t a pleasant journey for me at first.”

While in the past being gay in the military posed fears of being outed with its various repercussions, today is a different story.

“Now that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has come so far, I would not be as fearful if I were enlisting now,” says Troy.

“Of course, homophobia still exists out there, but there is a wide understanding that comes in being aligned with ADF Values. Each person lives these values, and any discrimination is not tolerated.

“Some of my early career experiences of homophobia have certainly not withstood the test of time. In my experience, homophobia can stem from a lack of understanding, or maybe some bad past experiences.

“As a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, I accept this as a task to educate and help those willing to understand. There’s always going to be a fear of coming out for people, for many different reasons, though they should not fear the work impacts. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a very diverse group of people and it’s never caused a problem.”

Troy feels the most rewarding parts of his military life have also been the hardest to get through. It includes making sacrifices.

“I’ve missed many Christmases and birthdays whilst overseas,” he says.

“My family and partner have missed big life events of mine, as I have theirs. In some way, this builds strengths you never knew you needed.”

Troy met his partner Jason in Newcastle, and they have since lived across three states. Happily, engaged with a wedding on the cards, they spend their private time with four-wheel adventuring, camping and fishing.

“For us, it is not about the marriage, as we already share a bond stronger than a title, though I am sure one day it will happen,” says Troy.

“But I can only imagine how unique and challenging it must be for a partner of an ADF member. My career has dragged Jason away from his family and friends and across states. This is something I was used to and we have now both come to love, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.”

Sacrifice the movie, coming soon

Such challenges are highlighted in Sacrifice, a new Australian film currently in production. Starring Lisa McCune, Grant Piro, Marina Prior and former Neighbours star James Mason, the film is based around a same-sex relationship within the Australian Army and the level of ‘sacrifice’ encountered.

As part of the film’s detail to authenticity, Troy and fellow DEFGLIS colleague Nathan Howarth are the production’s military consultants.

“Working with the cast and crew of this venture has been exciting and eye-opening,” says Troy.

“Together with my peer and friend Nathan, it’s been an incredible journey to see the script develop. I’m focused on trying to close the gap between reality and film, to make it as realistic as possible.

“Vocabulary and slang use, even how to carry oneself, are all important aspects. There are also the technical aspects of how scenes may play out from a military perspective.”

The key gay characters in Sacrifice – Blake and James – are played respectively by new-comer Isaac Crawley and Leigh Smith who also wrote the story. It also stars Richard Norton, Mia Landgren, Kristie Nguy and Kevin Khan, with direction by Lene Chor.

“The Air Force has a strong and diverse workforce, but personal sacrifices and challenges are not something to hide from, nor to be scared about,” says Troy.

“Sacrifice brings this to light in a heartfelt way that shows all sides of what sacrifice and service means.”

Sacrifice is slated for a 2025 release.

-For more on DEFGLIS visit defglis.com.au

For the latest LGBTIQA+ Sister Girl and Brother Boy news, entertainment, community stories in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Andrew M Potts

Andrew has been covering LGBTQIA+ issues for a range of publications in Australia over two decades and was the Asia-Pacific correspondent for global LGBTQIA+ news website Gay Star News.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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