Sexual Orientation


Defence has released guides to assist lesbian, gay and bisexual service men and women. A commander’s guide is also available detailing strategies to assist with inclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are available. These guides are aimed at promoting workplace diversity and inclusion. A guide to gender transition in the workplace is also due to be released shortly.

Advice provided is general in nature and does not consider your personal circumstances. You should consider the advice in the context of your personal circumstances, or seek professional advice before deciding on any course of action.

I think I might be gay … What is the homosexual policy within Defence? Will my career be impacted if I come out?

Defence does not have a homosexual policy because LGBTI members are part of the diverse workforce and are not subject to any special management or administration. There aren’t any limitations on what LGBTI members can or cannot do.

Everyone in Defence is evaluated on their individual ability to provide their required contribution to combat capability. There are a number of senior lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel serving within Defence who show that there are no limitations. The most senior same-sex attracted officer is a one-star General and the most senior same-sex attracted soldier, sailor or airmen is a Warrant Officer. There are gay officers who lead Army infantry units, command ships and flying squadrons.

If you think you might be gay, its okay – everyone has a sexual orientation. Your sexual orientation won’t impact your career if you can be honest with yourself. Take the time to work out what you are feeling, and take the opportunity to talk to one of your peers, or many of the support services that are available. You are an important part of the Defence community and you have valuable skills and experience.

If you are feeling isolated, DEFGLIS provides you with access to the network of LGBTIQ+ Defence personnel and their families who are all around Australia. Wherever you are, you belong to the community and we’ll always be here for you when you need us.

Is it tough to be gay, lesbian or bisexual in the Defence Force? 

Defence, like the rest of society employs people with a wide range of views … so from time to time (as in general society), you should expect to come across one or more persons who may not be comfortable with your sexuality. That said, Defence does not accept discrimination of any kind, and there are policies and support agencies to assist you if you are subject to discrimination, harassment or bullying.  Your chain of command, and the Equity Advice Line can all assist you if you encounter a situation where you are having a tough time because of your sexual orientation. DEFGLIS can provide you with peer-support to help you with issues that arise at work.

For many members of DEFGLIS, sexual orientation has had no impact to their choices and their successful careers.

Do I need to declare my sexual orientation?

In relation to whether you should declare your sexual orientation, that is very much a personal choice. You may be asked questions about your family situation during the recruiting process and when you go into a new workplace.  As is the case in general society, or perhaps to a greater degree, hetero-normativity — the assumption that everyone is heterosexual — means that people ask about your family situation without considering that it might sometimes be tough to answer that question.  Some people prefer to test the climate of their workplace before they disclose their sexuality.
Decide for yourself where and when is the right time. “Coming out” at work even if you’re already out can be a stressful situation so its one that is worth thinking about because you can expect to find yourself in that situation often. In Defence, postings mean that you may find yourself needing to come out several times during your career.

I have a same-sex partner.  Will my partner be recognised by Defence?

Partners of same-sex members are entitled to the same benefits (education assistance, housing, removals, etc) as opposite sex opposite once your relationship has been recognised by the Department. Same-sex people in Australia do not have access to marriage, which means that there is no means for you to declare that you are in a relationship that will be instantly recognised by the Department.

Don’t wait until you are just about to be posted or deployed to commence the process for recognition. It takes some time to generate the required items of evidence, and to co-habitate for 90 days. Start the process when your relationship transitions to a long-term interdependent relationship.

If your Commanding Officer rejects your application because you have insufficient evidence, but you have extenuating circumstances, you can seek for your application to be considered by the Director-General in charge of Personnel for your respective service. An example of extenuating circumstances is if you are posted away from your partner before you have had a chance to have your relationship recognised – in this case you are temporarily separated because of service reasons. Please let us know if you are having difficulty having your relationship recognised.

What if I don’t want to tell Defence I have a partner?

You don’t have to tell Defence you have a partner …. however, you should consider the effect that this might have on your partner, and their ability to access Defence support and the Defence community. Your partner plays an important support role for you, so its important to think about who is going to support your partner when you are away.

When you deploy on operations or exercise, you might leave your partner isolated without any access to either the LGBTI community, their friends, or the Defence community. Its important that you recognise and plan for the impact of long periods away from each other. You probably want your partner to be able to receive support from Defence if you become dangerously ill as an example.

There are additional support resources such as DEFGLIS to support LGBTI members and their families and help you form networking connections within your local LGBTIQ+ community. Your partner can join and can be connected with our community even if you choose not to. Your privacy will be respected.

Sexual orientation identity development describes how people who experience same-sex attraction come to terms with their sexual orientation or “coming out” in colloquial terms.

Understanding the identity development process helps to identify the needs of a person who has not yet come to terms with their sexual orientation.

There are a variety of models that describe this process.

The Fassinger model is shown below and talks about four sequential phases. However, not all people experience each phase in sequence, and some people make a decision that they will not “come out” and disclose their sexual orientation to others. Our adaptation of these phases are as follows:

Awareness – where a person becomes aware that they have feelings towards persons of the same sex, or feels that they are different from others within their social environment. This typically follows the period of confusion where a person cannot identify their feelings.

Exploration – where a person explores their recognised feelings for persons of the same sex. They may seek out people of the same sex to explore their feelings.

Commitment – where are person experiences deepening self-knowledge about their feelings towards persons of the same sex. They may experience less guilt about their feelings, and seek to crystallise their choices about their sexuality.

Synthesis – where a person synthesises or integrates their feelings of love towards people of the same sex. They integrate their sexual orientation and choices into their overall identity. As part of this integration, a person will decide to disclose (or not disclose) their sexual orientation to family, friends and co-workers.

This also applies to a person’s group identity development.


Susan R McCarn, Ruth E. Fassinger, “Revisioning Sexual Minority Identity Formation: A New Model of Lesbian Identity and Its Implications for Counselling and Research”, in The Counselling Psychologist, Vol. 24, No 3, July 1996, 508-534

Defence Instructions (General) Personnel 53-1 Amendment 1, dated 1 December 2005 – for information about having your relationship recognised
Defence Pay and Conditions Manual – for information about Pay and Conditions Entitlements