A transgender soldier in the British army has become the first female to serve on the frontline.
Guardsman Chloe Allen said she hoped to inspire others to be themselves, after speaking out about beginning the process of gender reassignment.
The 24-year-old, who is in the Scots Guards, told the Sun it was a relief to talk openly about it and said her family had been accepting of her decision. Allen, who joined the army four years ago as Ben, has now officially changed her name and started hormone therapy. “I’d love to inspire people to just come out and be themselves,” she said.
“As much as it’s a big bad world, it’s not as bad as people think and it’s easier when you’ve got your mates and your bosses behind you.”
The soldier from Cumbria told the newspaper she began dressing in her mother’s clothes when she was eight. She said she felt frustrated and unhappy and had to “learn to control it and crack on”.
The guardsman was still living as Ben Allen when a fellow serviceman discovered her dressed in female gear.
Chloe, who was deployed on ceremonial duties guarding royal residences in London, said she was overcome with worry, but that her fellow soldier’s reaction had set her at ease.
“I went down to muster parade in the morning for PT [physical training] and it was just mainly banter, just having a laugh,” she said. “The whole sort of worry that I had, I shouldn’t have even worried. The entire battalion’s been brilliant.”
Until July, historic rules banned women from ground close combat units, but the then prime minister, David Cameron, accepted a recommendation by the head of the army, Gen Sir Nick Carter, that women should be able to serve in frontline combat roles.
Gen Sir James Everard, commander of the field army, praised Allen for her courage.
He said: “I’m delighted to have our first woman serving in a ground close combat unit. The British army is really proving itself as an inclusive organisation where everyone is welcome and can thrive.
“Recent awards from Stonewall and the opening up of all elements of military service to women are clear evidence of this. Being the first of anything takes courage.
“I applaud guardsman Chloe Allen for being a trendsetter and wish her every success.”
Earlier this year an army officer Capt Hannah Winterbourne told how she had decided to come out as transgender and praised the military for being forward thinking.