Uniform Identity? Lesbians and the Negotiation of Gender & Sexuality in the British Army Since 1950

Joan K. F. Heggie

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Homosexuality has always been deemed to be incompatible with military service and the British Armed Forces has enforced this policy with some rigour. STatistics for discharges on the grounds of homosexuality show that lesbians in the British Army have been the most targeted group. The ban on homosexuality was lifted in January 2000. The change to military policy means that all gay men and lesbians now have the right to serve in the Armed Forces without fear of persecution.

As an organisation constructed as both masculine and heterosexual, the British Army is a place from which women and gay men have been traditionally excluded. This thesis explores how the British Army acted/ acts as the backdrop for the interaction of gender and sexuality within a particular space and time. By exploring the experiences of lesbian soldiers, living and working in the male-dominated environment of the Army, this thesis offers a unique glimpse of how the institutional structures regulate both gender and sexuality by controlling the female military body. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from lesbian participants through a combination of questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. My analyses reveal how lesbians made sense of their everyday lives as women and as soldiers and also made visible the strategies they employed to live as lesbians within their 'uniform identity'.

This research adds to the body of knowledge about women's experiences of military life by exploring the inter-relationships and tensions between three 'identities' - woman, soldier and lesbian - and places these experiences within the context of the British Army since 1950. These findings illustrate the depth and range of potential areas for investigation and opportunities for further research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of York
  • Jackson, Stevi, Supervisor, External person
  • Akeroyd, Anne, Supervisor, External person
Award date30 Sept 2003
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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