Monday, 14 December 2009

Armageddon comes early

Pack your bags, defrost the freezer and cancel the milk. The end of the world is nigh and there's nothing you can do about it.

Despite their decades-old war on the 'homosexual agenda', the Daily Mail ran a story this weekend about a gay soldier and never once criticised his sexuality or the army's acceptance of it. They didn't even drag Anne Widdecombe out from her cupboard under the stairs to wag a judgmental finger.

Describing 21-year old trooper Ben Rakestrow as 'brave' and 'open', rather than 'sordid' and 'sleazy' (where's Jan Moir when you need her?), the Mail's article talked about the young soldier's six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan which ended last week. Before deployment, Ben had taken the courageous decision to open up to his fellow squaddies whilst on a training exercise last year.

Ben was unsurprisingly apprehensive about coming out to his colleagues, but was pleasantly surprised by their tolerance and understanding. Apparently, there's plenty of banter, "but it's all good banter... they all ask a lot of questions." It's all a far cry from the state of affairs ten years ago when, prior to the ban on gay personnel being lifted, 298 people were dishonourably discharged for their sexuality.

But if you really want proof of how much things have changed, check out the picture that accompanies the story. Rather than standard military issue bedding, Ben tucks himself into a pink Zac Efron duvet at night. Suddenly that Kitchener poster takes on a whole new meaning.

Before we get too carried away though, it's important to note that Ben has clearly been carefully briefed by the PR department that arranged this story. According to the Mail's article, Ben 'insisted he would never look to start a relationship with another soldier. He said: "I wouldn't let my personal life clash with my professional life."' Still, small steps...

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