Remembrance Sunday is a time of year where respects are paid to war heroes and veterans, but this was not the case.
A gay RAF veteran claims he and his husband were subjected to homophobic taunting by a fellow serviceman after taking part in the Remembrance Sunday service in London.
Kevin Bazeley was marching in the parade as part of the Fighting With Pride (FWP) contingent, when the shocking incident occurred as he walked back to his car in Charing Cross Road, reports The Mirror.
READ MORE: London remembers fallen soldiers on Remembrance Sunday and it was a morning of peaceful unity
(Image: @polbikers / Twitter)
The 54 year-old, from Worcester, said it left him crying with anger and brought back the memories of his discharge from the services in 1995, prior to the LGBT military ban being lifted.
It was the first year charitable organisation FWP had laid a wreath as part of the actual march past the Cenotaph memorial.
Kevin told the Mirror there had been “an incredible acceptance shown by everybody” during the event and he finished the day “on this high of maybe it is all behind us”.
But as he and his husband of 12 years – who did not wish to be named – were returning to their car, they walked hand in hand – something he said he doesn’t feel comfortable doing in his home city.
“Rarely do we have public displays of affection,” he explained. “It’s not really the place I would feel comfortable walking hand in hand with my husband down the high street in Worcester.
“However, in London I felt like I could.”
(Image: @polbikers / Twitter)
A group of fellow veterans then past them on the street and one took the opportunity to tease the couple.
“He had obviously served, had a good selection of medals but wasn’t actually in uniform – just made a very silly puerile comment,” said Kevin.
“‘Oh, look who’s with Freddie Mercury’, referring to my husband with a leather jacket on.
“In his mind it was probably just a bit of silly banter, putting on a little camp voice with his mates and it just triggered so many memories for me,” Kevin continued. “The emotion of the day and the memories it was dragging up from my discharge back in 1995… it just triggered that for me and came crashing back.”
Kevin reiterated it was a one off incident while the rest of the day had been “very focused and accepting”.
“We were there in the parade with everyone else,” he said. “We were just another group of veterans showing our respect, laying our wreath and marching with everyone else.
“It just showed me that although we’ve made so much progress [there’s still an issue].”
He said he suspects the man was around his age and left the services some time ago, perhaps before the ban was lifted and had an “old school” way of thinking.
“The Armed Forces since [LGBT military service] was legalised in 2000 has made such great progress in becoming employers of preference within the LGBT community.
“It just brought it back to…no matter how much progress you think you’ve made there’s always someone out there who is going to take it away with some silly thoughtless comment,” he said.
Kevin was a navigator based at RAF Kinloss when he was “effectively arrested” by his wing commander after he landed following a training exercise.
Do you want to stay up to date with the latest news, views, features and opinion from across the city?
MyLondon’s brilliant newsletter The 12 is absolutely jam packed with all the latest to keep you keep you entertained, informed and uplifted.
You’ll get 12 stories straight to your inbox at around 12pm. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.
And what’s more – it’s FREE!
The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets, so you’ll never miss a moment.
Don’t skip a beat and sign up to The 12 newsletter here.
He was driven to the RAF police and found himself going through a “very intrusive and embarrassing” ordeal as his personal life was questioned.
Kevin’s wallet had been found and in it a membership card to a gay social club.
In previous years those serving who were found to be LGBT were imprisoned in military jails but by the 90s “things had relaxed”, he explained.
“It had become more of an administrative act to discharge someone [by 1995].
“You were still arrested, you were still taken to RAF police, interview rooms, you were questioned about aspects of your personal life… who else did you know on the camp that was gay? What have you been getting up to?” said Kevin.
“All very intrusive and embarrassing and humiliating the whole prospect of talking about that with people who had no need or right to know.”
Kevin said once his sexuality was out there and he was discharged, “there were conflicting emotions”.
“There was a sense of liberation, I wasn’t hiding anymore but there was the whole crushing humiliation of the process you were going through. I was losing the career that was the only one I’d ever wanted growing up. I had only ever wanted to be in the RAF.”
Since leaving active service, Kevin has become a professional management accountant.
He said he misses many aspects of his time in the military.
“A lot of that came back as part of this parade, that whole sense of camaraderie, being amongst people who had that mindset, that whole spirit of squadrons and regiments and so on.
“I think that was why this relatively petty incident was quite so traumatic because a lot of those thoughts and emotions had been brought to the service as part of this,” he added.
Do you have a story you think we should be covering? If so, email [email protected]