A gay RAAF veteran was surveilled and grilled over his sexual history and visits to gay bars, before being hounded out of the air force. 

Trigger Warning: This story discussed homophobia in the Defence Force and suicidal ideation, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support, call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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Danny Liversidge was a young man from Daylesford in regional Victoria who had “signed up on the spot” in the late 1980s when the Defence Force recruitment van came to town. He aced the training and was flying high till the 23-year-old was called into a meeting with his superiors and military police. 

Grilled, Confronted With Photos

According to the Daily Mail, Liversidge was shown photos of himself outside a gay bar in Prahran and was asked about the type of people who frequented the establishment. Liversidge said it was his “Oh! sh*t moment.”

“They then had a series of dates and times that they had known that I’d gone to gay bars. I had been under some type of surveillance and … my movements had been tracked,” Liversidge told a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide on Tuesday. The commission is hearing from ADF veterans who have had suicidal ideation, survivors and family members of those who have died. 

“To be honest, I just wanted to crawl under a rock and die. This … shaming and humiliating questioning asking about deeply personal things that you know, things that I was still working out for myself,” he said. 

Liversidge said he was grilled with over 100 questions in that meeting, including the type of people he met and how many times had had sex with men. He was asked if he was a homosexual. 

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“I don’t think I’d even called myself a homosexual at that stage. It wasn’t a tag I was using on myself. But they had forced me now … the very first time I ever said it out loud: ‘Yes, I believe I am a homosexual’.”

Jobless And Homeless Within Weeks

By the end of the meeting, Liversidge was intimidated into agreeing to seek an “honourable discharge” from the Defence Force. 

Within weeks he went from dreams of a career in the air force to being homeless and feeling suicidal. 

“I’d gone from being a loyal, committed, enthusiastic member of the air force … to jobless, unemployed, homeless, living in my car surrounded by my possessions in the space of less than two weeks,” said Liversidge. 

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“That was a lot for a 23-year-old to be dealing with at that point in time … Your job and career has gone up in smoke in two weeks. And you‘re now living in your car on the side of the street. That’s what they did to me.”

Waiting For An Apology

Twelve months after he quit, the ADF changed its stance on homosexuality to a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Though he would have been “back there in a flash”, he never received an invitation to rejoin the RAAF. 

Liversidge, now a prominent spokesperson for Discharged LGBTI Veterans Association, said all he wants is an apology. 

“It’d be recognition after 32 years now. They get what they were doing was wrong. And I think this is still missing from the narrative of these stories that we’re telling you today is any sense that they thought they were doing anything wrong.”

Last week, the Royal Commission heard a similar account from Yvonne Sillett,  a former Australian soldier and cipher operator who was forced out of the Defence Force. Sillett said she was “humiliated” and “degraded” during the three-hour interrogation, told that the ADF had been following her movements and knew that she was a homosexual.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention, call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support, call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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