The British Army has welcomed its first ever ‘female’ front-line soldier, following the transition from male to female of a 24-year-old Guardsman.
Guardsman Allen, who joined the army four years ago as Ben has changed his name to Chloe and started hormone treatment. He told The Sun that it was a relief to talk openly of the decision to do so.
Sporting long, perfectly manicured nails and silver studs in his ears, the Guardsman said: “It’s a great honour to make history. I’m just looked at as a normal person. I’d love to inspire people to just come out and be themselves.”
Guardsman Allen, who serves with 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, was on deployment to London conducting ceremonial duties guarding royal residences when a fellow serviceman found him dressed in female clothing.
He was initially worried about how his colleagues would react, but said: “I went down to muster parade in the morning for PT and it was just mainly banter, just having a laugh. I shouldn’t have even worried. The entire battalion’s been brilliant.
“If it hadn’t happened I’d still be living a lie now. It was a blessing in disguise — the kick up the arse I needed to get on and deal with it.”
A year after telling friends and family, Guardsman Allen approached his boss about making the transition to a woman.
“It was just like talking to my boss about work,” he said. “It wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary really — he is a very open person.”
Within the last month, Guardsman Allen has started taking hormones, as well as completing paperwork to change his name by deed poll and change his passport.
“It’s brilliant, it’s amazing,” he said. “For that to say everything that I’ve wanted it to say and for me to still be serving as an infantryman is even better.
“I still have a few more years to go, but that doesn’t affect my job in any way whatsoever.”
In July this year then Prime Minister David Cameron accepted a recommendation by army chief Sir General Nick Carter that women be able to serve in Ground Close Combat units where troops are expected to “close with and kill” the enemy.
The recommendation followed a two-year study into whether women could physically cope with the stresses of combat, but military critics described the change, overturning centuries of practice, as an “error of judgement.”
Nonetheless, the first female infantrymen are expected to be recruited in 2018.
However, thanks to the Army’s case by case approach with personnel, Guardsman Allen, who has wanted to join the army since the age of three, will be allowed to remain in his unit. His role, title and uniform will remain the same.
General Sir James Everard, Commander of the Field Army, praised Guardsman Allen saying: “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 [LGBT organisation] 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.”