Britain's 'first openly trans Army officer' told 'to shoot herself'

Britain’s ‘first openly trans Army officer’ claims she was ordered to shoot herself with a revolver and was told she’d ‘gone from hero to zero in one sentence’ when she revealed to her commanding officer that she was starting gender reassignment

  • Abi Austen, 58, became the first officer to begin transitioning while in the army
  • She was told to ‘get a revolver and go out back’ by her commanding officer
  • For help and support, call the Samaritans anonymously and for free on 116 123 

A British Army officer has claimed she was told to shoot herself when she revealed to her commanding officer that she was trans.

Decorated paratrooper Abigail Austen was the first officer in the Army to begin gender reassignment while serving in the military.

She came out as Abi in 2007. But when she informed her superior she was told she had ‘gone from hero to zero in one sentence’.

The 58-year-old, who went through a lengthy court battle after being dismissed from service when she came out, said she was told to shoot herself.

Abi told Rachel Johnson’s Difficult Women podcast the officer’s reaction: ‘The exact quote is “you have just gone from hero to zero in one sentence”.

Decorated paratrooper Abigail Austen, 58, was the first officer in the Army to begin gender reassignment while serving in the military

Speaking to Rachel Johnson on her podcast Difficult Women, Ms Austen revealed she was told to shoot herself by her commander when she came out as trans

‘Then I was told to go and get a revolver and go in the back.’

She described how many in the Army saw being transgender as a psychiatric illness.

‘I’m absolutely serious – that’s what I was told.

‘I was decorated by Prince Edward, and that’s what they told me to do.

‘I was literally removed from post overnight. I was medically discharged.

‘The Army saw it as a psychiatric illness or a perversion.’

Ms Austen said she was treated in the same way that US soldiers who were given a dishonourable discharge if found to be gay were treated. 

Legislation brought in in the USA in 1993 banned people who were openly a member of the LGBT+ community from serving in the armed forces, and banned discrimination against closeted members of the community.

The legislation, also known as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, was not lifted until 2011, after Democrat Barack Obama was elected.

Ms Austen told Ms Johnson: ‘The next day, my family disowned me – it wasn’t a great week.

‘The day after, I walked out onto the street, and I didn’t look anything like I do now – I looked like your brother [Boris Johnson] in lipstick.

‘A guy came up and whacked me in the face.

‘At the end of that week, I thought I had to do something about this because it was unacceptable.

‘So I sued them. I fought them for two and a half years.’

Ms Austen described how she fully transitioned and was able to get new ID and change her name.

Ms Austen returned to the army but this time served for NATO, and was deployed alongside US soldiers

Eventually the military accepted and officially confirmed she was the ‘first ever female officer in the parashoot regiment.’

Ms Austen continued: ‘I was the first woman to have ever gone to the special air service. I had all of that.

‘I said, “that was great”, and I shoved the Army where the sun don’t shine.’

She spoke about some of the difficulties of her transition and how it has made her more aware of misogyny: ‘I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that nothing I do as a woman will ever carry quite as much as it did when the world saw me as a man.

‘That’s just the nature of society.’

After leaving the army in 2009, Ms Austen became a police officer with Police Scotland and has written her own book. 

But soon after becoming a police officer she was back serving in an army – this time alongside US soldiers for NATO in Afghanistan.

She served in the regiment for three years, before becoming the first openly trans diplomatic ambassador and travelling the world. 

For help and support, contact the Samaritans anonymously and for free on 116 123, or visit 

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