UK army adverts tell recruits they can be gay, pray and cry

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A series of new animated adverts for the British army say it is okay to cry, be gay and practise your faith as part of a drive to recruit more soldiers from diverse backgrounds.

A voiceover in the television, radio and digital 1.6 million pound ($2.2 million) campaign, dubbed This is Belonging 2018, asks “Can I be gay in the army?”, “Do I have to be a superhero to join the army?” and “What if I get emotional in the army?”

“The British Army and the Armed Forces as a whole have made huge strides in building an LGBT inclusive work culture,” a spokeswoman from Stonewall, a UK-based LGBT charity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

“When people are free to be themselves they can excel in their chosen career and perform to their best ability.”

The British army was about 30 percent short of its annual recruitment target last year, with numbers down to about 80,000 troops against 112,000 in 2003, according to government data.

Richard Kemp, a former commander of British operations in Afghanistan, condemned the campaign, saying it would not solve the army’s recruitment problem.

“The army, like the rest of government, is being forced down a route of political correctness,” he told the BBC.

“The main group of people who are interested in joining aren’t worried so much about whether they are going to be listened to ... They are going to be attracted by images of combat.”

In contrast, the five adverts end with the phrase “Find where you belong”.

LGBT freedom in the army has made global headlines.

President Donald Trump tried to stop transgender people serving in the U.S. military in July, but his directive was overturned by the federal courts, allowing transgender recruits to enlist from Jan. 1.

($1 = 0.7399 pounds)