‘One woman’s battle against the country she served’ is written on the cover. As I said when this book arrived – give me a ‘one woman’s battle…’ book any day of the week.
Elaine joined the Army in 1982, aged 21, as a student nurse. After qualifying as a staff nurse, she obtained a commission, becoming a junior sister in the rank of lieutenant. Her ordeal began in 1987, after rumours about her sexuality reached the military police. After being forced to resign, she met Robert Ely, who had been discharged from the Parachute Regiment after nearly 20 years service, and they founded Rank Outsiders, a campaign and support group, in 1991.
Since leaving the Army, Elaine initially struggled to find work that could rival the prospects and camaraderie of her Army career – she has had nearly 20 different jobs, mostly in nursing but also including stints at Eurostar, as a security guard at the Tower of London and briefly as a tree climbing instructor. She is now working as a medical administrator for a GP practice, following a momentous decision to take her name off the medical register after her parents suffered serious ill health. She lives in the Isle of Wight.
A few words to describe this book – poignant, cruel, raw, brave, honest, amongst others.
I really wasn’t prepared for how hard this book would hit me. Love is love, right? Love is never wrong between two consenting adults and it should never be judged as otherwise. How can one be deemed a criminal in the institution protecting fellow citizens’ hard-won freedoms? This book discusses, in my opinion, a system that stinks of patriarchal assumptions about power balance.
I am so sad to say I had very little knowledge of the longstanding ban on LGBT+ personnel serving openly in HM Forces before reading this book and without wanting to be too dramatic, I cried a lot and my heart ached many, many times. I felt anger, disgust and an enormous amount of sadness.
I’m so glad Elaine chose to share her incredible story. Things like this so badly need to be shared, addressed and spoken about – LOUDLY!
The patriarchy is alive, well and screaming throughout the book.
To think that anyone who is willing to serve their country, regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or whatever other biases exist, should be forced to leave their job is hard to fathom.
I had such mixed feelings as I turned the pages as I was intrigued but equally felt like I’d discovered a very private diary that I shouldn’t be reading. I felt I shouldn’t be turning the pages. You know when you want to know more, but really don’t at the same time? I knew that by reading this book, I’d never look at certain things the same way ever again but I also knew I needed the education this book was providing me. As this is a memoir, I’d say that’s a job well done on the part of Elaine.
This is such a carefully and lovingly crafted memoir that I had to remind myself that this is the first book by this author. I think, because she is writing from a very personal place, it comes across that she has been writing for so much longer. She has mastered her craft in her time planning and writing This Queer Angel that much is clear. The human cost involved is also very clear.
I felt a great connection with Elaine throughout the book and I’d like to thank her for writing the first book covering recent military history, written from a lesbian perspective.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Elaine M Chambers, as well as Anne Cater and Unbound for including me in this blog tour. It’s been an education!