Intelligence agencies in both the United States and the United Kingdom are increasingly embracing LGBT diversity in their ranks. This is a significant shift from tradition; until the recent past LGBT people were officially banned from holding intelligence positions.
Earlier this year the Security Service, the British domestic intelligence agency also known as MI5, was ranked number one and named “Employer of the Year” in Stonewall’s annual list of the UK’s top 100 LGBT diversity employers. According to MI5 Director General Andrew Parker, “Diversity is vital for MI5, not just because it’s right that we represent the communities we serve, but because we rely on the skills of the most talented people whoever they are.” The Secret Intelligence Service or MI6 was named number 36 on the list.
In the U.S. intelligence has made similar strides. CIA Director John Brennan gave a keynote interview on the importance of LGBT inclusion at The Economist Pride and Prejudice event in February, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who oversees the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, is “a self-declared LGBT ally.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will also be hosting a presentation, “America’s LGBT Spies: Secret Agents of Change,” next week at South by Southwest in Austin. The panel discussion, featuring three serving LGBT intelligence operatives, will be introduced by Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O’Sullivan.