Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Great Britain | Military | News

Gay British Army Trooper Speaks Out About Coming Out

Rakestrow2

Trooper Ben Rakestrow is speaking out about his time in the British Army and his service in Afghanistan, where he came out to his fellow soldiers:

"Yesterday he completed a gruelling six-month operational tour in the war zone with Egypt squadron, the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, and said the decision to come out was not easy. He said: 'It was difficult to start with. I didn't know how they'd react.' Trooper Rakestrow decided to reveal his sexuality during the middle of a military exercise on Salisbury Plain last year. He said: 'I had been out at a nightclub and the next morning the lads all asked if I'd had any luck. I just said "His name was Ryan". 'Some of their faces dropped, and they asked if I was serious. They couldn't believe it.' But Trooper Rakestrow, from Exeter, said it was the best decision of his life, adding that he was accepted and treated as an equal. He said: 'I get banter from them all the time, but it's good banter. They all want to know about my life, they ask a lot of questions. I don't find it hard to talk about it.'"

You've gotta be really comfortable to be out and proud in the barracks with a Zac Efron quilt! Congrats to Trooper Rakestrow.

Rakestrow

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Comments

  1. Does the UK have compulsory national service? I wonder whether the U.S. "all volunteer" military contributes to preposterous "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" thinking.

    Posted by: Interested Bystander | Dec 14, 2009 12:07:15 PM


  2. No, they do not have compulsory service.
    He is adorable. Makes me want to run off and join the RAF.

    Posted by: secretagentman | Dec 14, 2009 12:11:30 PM


  3. It's odd that the Daily Mail would run this piece. I guess they're trying to make up for the Jan Moir/Stephen Gately disaster.

    Posted by: DaveB | Dec 14, 2009 12:30:54 PM


  4. @Interested Bystander

    No, the United Kingdom does not have a draft.

    Though I think there's certainly a cultural and geographical element to it.

    Among the European countries that still draft their troops are: Germany, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Technically, the Netherlands still has conscription. But the government suspended enforcement of it in 1997. With the exception of Greece, all the other countries are basically "neighbors" clustered around each other.

    Posted by: John | Dec 14, 2009 12:32:25 PM


  5. I applaud this young man for being able to come out. Considering how often we find ourselves with the British troops as allies, it appears we can learn a great deal about gays in the military from them.

    But can someone talk to him about the bright pink quilt with Zac on it? Yeesh, lol.

    Posted by: DR | Dec 14, 2009 12:38:14 PM


  6. Banning gays [as a "class"] from the US military did not start with DADT, but during WWII—not long after our modern "draft" was instituted. Thousands of gays were discharged between then and 1993 when conscription [but not registration] ended. Some TWENTY THOUSAND were discharged between 1980 and 1993—more in each of most of those years than by DADT in its peak discharge year [1,273 in 2001].

    While homophobia arrived in the Americas with Columbus and other Xtian explorers, and military discharges for sodomy can be traced to the American Revolution, it was also during WWII that ORGANIZED demonization of gay men began in the US in the form of archly homophobic military "training" films. Thus, soldiers returning to civilian life brought with them degrees of hostility and misinformation that persist today in those of those generations still living.

    Gay bashings/murders in the UK and laws banning MARRIAGE equality despite their "civil partnerships" prove its not paradise, it's unimaginable that an American servicemember with a pink, let alone pink Zac Efron, quilt could long survive regardless of the many random stories of individual acceptance from gay servicemembers relatively out to their peers. [Some 65,000 are still serving "in silence.]

    So the "joke" is not on Trooper Rakestrow but on the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.

    PS: the German draft is now almost nonexistent. One only has to serve nine months and can choose "civilian alternative service" instead, which twice as many do as enter the military.

    Posted by: Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | Dec 14, 2009 1:12:16 PM


  7. Just at a guess, I'd say the pink Zac Ephron quilt is a "gift" from someone having a bit of a laugh. That he's willing to not only have it in his personal space in a barracks situation, but be photographed with it speaks well of not only his courage and conviction, but of his unit and his nation.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Dec 14, 2009 1:48:08 PM


  8. Did he come out before or after he got started using the Zac Efron quilt? lol. Hes cute though.

    Posted by: J. Bocca | Dec 14, 2009 2:07:01 PM


  9. Hang on im also from Exeter UK, i think ive seen him out and about, or maybe it was on Gaydar, i dont know. Looks familiar.

    Posted by: Rovex | Dec 14, 2009 2:36:59 PM


  10. His comrades gave him the quilt after he came out to them. The UK on-line papers are giveing him great press.

    Posted by: JT | Dec 14, 2009 2:41:11 PM


  11. Education systems in Europe are nationalized, not done on a state or local level, so there is a better chance to undo/prevent prejudice than in the US where local mores can more strongly persist. However, a majority of US troops would support repeal of DADT. This might not eliminate violence in the ranks though. The US military basically had to introduce its own education system to get rid of prejudice against blacks and later women.

    Posted by: anon | Dec 14, 2009 2:54:59 PM


  12. Dave B said: It's odd that the Daily Mail would run this piece. I guess they're trying to make up for the Jan Moir/Stephen Gately disaster.

    Yes Dave, very strange considering how snide they usually are - even without Jan Moir sticking her bilious beak in.

    The piece was (I believe) originally published the day before in a local/regional newspaper called "Sunday Independent". It was the cover story.

    you can also see it at:

    http://www.sundayindependent.co.uk/

    Posted by: Glynn | Dec 14, 2009 4:24:20 PM


  13. Two questions need to be answered and answered without resort to the usual doctrinaire programmed responses. First, how do you make the military safe for "out" members? Many in the ranks are poorly educated and working class; homophobia was like oxygen in their households. Second, does the presence of open homosexual soldiers fighting in an Islamic radical environment create an even greater danger to the entire unit, particularly to those who might be captured? These are not idle musings but issues that need to be addressed.

    Posted by: Contrarian | Dec 14, 2009 7:34:48 PM


  14. @Contrarian, if his unit is OK with it beyond this photo-op, my guess (knowing what military units are like) is that they'd stand up for him and help protect him from any 'phobe idiots within their own camp.

    As far as "open homosexuals" being spotted within the frame of reference of warfare, that's not a very well thought-out question. First, it's not like the boys are sexing it up on the range in broad daylight and, second, there would be very little chance of figuring out who's gay and who's not, even in the radical enviroment of which you speak, let alone in a "captured" scenario. Most conversations between soldiers are limited to operational lingo in the field and any references to a particular man's sexuality (if any) are usually something done in mess or elsewhere in camp.

    Posted by: johnny | Dec 14, 2009 11:50:43 PM


  15. He's adorable. Good on him for coming out, and good on his comrades for accepting him. What a difference a progressive culture makes.

    Posted by: Jordan | Dec 15, 2009 3:02:40 AM


  16. I had a suspicion the quilt was a gag gift, good for him (and his platoon-mates) for owning it for the fun it is. We can clearly learn a lot from these soldiers.

    Posted by: DR | Dec 15, 2009 9:40:05 AM


  17. @Contrarian; many gay soldiers are already serving in in Afghanistan with the Canadian, Spanish and British military with no special gay targeting being done.

    Unless the US military will mark gay soldiers with pink triangles how would the enemy know a gay soldier from a straight one?

    Posted by: emdubsf | Feb 12, 2010 5:43:37 PM


  18. Found your blog and decided to have a quick read, not what a normally do but nice one. Nice to see a blog for a change that isn’t full of spam and rubbish, and actually makes some sense. Anyway, nice write up.

    Posted by: Ray Ban | Apr 17, 2011 4:08:01 AM


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