The Royal Navy has recently issued guidelines encouraging personnel to introduce themselves with their pronouns during meetings, according to documents seen by The Telegraph. The move is part of a broader effort to foster inclusivity and awareness of trans and non-binary identities within the armed forces.
The guidelines, accessible on the Royal Navy intranet, state: “Introducing yourself with your pronouns at the start of meetings and interactions is a good way to be inclusive.” The document also advises Navy staff to “avoid micro-aggressions like backhanded compliments and unhelpful tips” and to “keep constantly educating and researching about trans matters.”
The Royal Navy also promoted Ministry of Defence (MoD) diversity events during National Inclusion Week, urging staff to “actively participate in as many events as possible.”
The guidelines have sparked a range of reactions, both supportive and critical. Admiral Lord West, former First Sea Lord, expressed concerns that the initiative could “divide ship’s companies” and negatively impact “the cohesion and fighting ability of the Navy.”
The Navy’s guidelines also include a “trans umbrella” that outlines various gender identities, such as gender-neutral and pangender. The Oxford English Dictionary defines pangender as “a non-binary person whose gender identity encompasses multiple genders, which may be experienced simultaneously or in a fluid, fluctuating manner; of or relating to a gender identity of this type.”
The document also touches upon the concept of intersectionality, stating that different societal aspects like race, class, and gender can combine to create unique experiences of disadvantage or discrimination. It includes a briefing note aimed at Navy personnel, stating that “if you are ‘white’, whatever situation you are in, it is almost always the case that the outcome has not been affected by your skin colour.”
A Navy source expressed concerns that the guidelines could “muddy the waters,” stating: “The only thing that matters in the military is that people do their jobs and work well in a team. We couldn’t care less who you sleep with or what your skin pigment is.”
The MoD responded to the controversy by stating that the Royal Navy is “entirely focused on protecting the UK and its interests” and that the guidelines are “currently under review.”
The guidelines also mention that the Navy was a “Stonewall top 100 employer” last year, although several government departments have recently withdrawn from Stonewall’s diversity schemes due to criticisms over the charity’s stance on transgender issues.
The initiative comes at a time when armed forces around the world are grappling with how to be more inclusive while maintaining operational effectiveness. While some see these guidelines as a step forward in fostering a more inclusive environment, others worry that they could distract from the Navy’s primary objectives.
The MoD spokesperson concluded: “It’s important to encourage personnel to be respectful of others. However, this guidance does not reflect our standards and is currently under review.”