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There was once a "dark climate" in the navy, according to Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones, the most senior openly gay officer across all three armed forces.

But he was now comfortable taking his partner to official functions and could laugh off jokes about being posted to Baghdad to "redecorate" the city. He welcomed the link with Stonewall. If people are able to acknowledge my sexuality even through a little bit of well-intentioned banter, that's fine.

It makes me feel they are comfortable with the fact that I am gay. It requires a certain robustness of character to be in the armed forces but that does not mean you should tolerate anything that is quite clearly inappropriate.

In the last five years I've never had to reproach anybody. The navy's liaison with Stonewall was kept a closely guarded secret during more than 12 months of negotiations.

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The group hopes the army and the RAF will follow the navy's incursion into once-forbidden territory. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, admitted he was surprised by how far the navy's attitude to homosexuality had shifted in recent years.

He said he anticipated "upmarket saloon bar prejudice" against the partnership, but insisted the navy was not simply "ticking boxes". They are not doing it to be touchy feely. Asked to leave the army after his sexuality was investigated in , Mr Johnston called the navy's move "a major step forward" but said it would also be greeted with sadness by many veterans who needlessly lost their jobs over their sexuality in the past.

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Fortunately - and sadly - our work now is less and less because the forces' welfare organisations are taking on our role. By signing up to Stonewall's "diversity champions" programme, the navy joins such organisations as British Airways, IBM and Sainsbury's. Exchanging ideas on equal opportunities in the workplace during "networking" sessions with such blue-chip companies is part of the partnership, which will be overseen by Vice-Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, the Second Sea Lord.

Navy's new message: your country needs you, especially if you are gay

Cmdr Jones said there were "an increasing number of officers who are out and have good experiences of being gay in the armed services". Many of the admirals, generals and air marshals who were so concerned by this policy change must look back and think 'what was all the fuss about? We also have hundreds of gay and lesbian personnel who might otherwise have been sacked.

I hope they have the confidence to report it. This is about building the confidence of gay men and women so they can take part in naval society.

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Lord Kitchener He never married and appreciated porcelain, fine fabrics and interior decor, but it is disputed whether Horatio Kitchener was gay or was just more interested in empire than the opposite sex. The hero of Sudan and the Boer war, whose portrait encouraged millions to enlist for the first world war, was declared gay by many historians. It's meritocracy in its purest form, and a wonderful example set by the Special Operations community, from which others can and should learn.

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And while politicians and religious fanatics made a fuss about gays serving in the military, these men and women proudly served their country in silence, and earned the respect of their peers until DADT was eventually repealed. His story is below.

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Making the decision to not take a shower for a little more sleep was an easy one. Last night's dive was long and cold. Since I was going to be back in the water soon enough, staying dry for now was a must. It took a second try to get my Jeep to start in the morning cold.

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After I parked in front of the SEAL Team 8 building, I grabbed my phone and started listening to my voicemail, watching as, one-by-one, people arrived at work. Give me a call back. I had met Mike at a gay bar in Virginia Beach the week prior.

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He must have called last night when I was on my dive. The Navy had a Don't-ask Don't-tell policy DADT , and I had met a number of people at gay bars in the area who still had been dishonorably discharged for it. Fortunately for me, it was not obvious to people that I was gay.