RAF transgender trailblazer receives honorary degree

The first openly transgender officer to serve in the British Armed Forces said she is "humbled and tremendously honoured" to be recognised with an Honorary Degree.

Caroline Paige with Middlesex University Vice Chancellor, Professor Nic Beech
Caroline Paige with Middlesex University Vice Chancellor, Professor Nic Beech

Caroline Paige made the brave decision to transition in 1999, ultimately helping to pave the way for diversity and inclusion in the military. At the time, she was one of the RAF's Top Guns, a highly respected jet fighter pilot in the macho world of the military.

After bravely coming out to her RAF bosses, she went on to fly battlefield helicopters for a further 15 years. Serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan as a transgender woman, Caroline won four commendations for ‘exceptional service’ on the frontline.

She also served at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire.

On Monday, her bravery and continued dedication to championing LGBT+ rights were recognised with an Honorary Degree from Middlesex University.

Since retiring from the RAF in 2014, Caroline has had an incredible career promoting LGBT+ inclusion in schools, universities, businesses, organisations and the media.

Caroline is Joint CEO of Fighting With Pride, a charity supporting the health and wellbeing of LGBT+ veterans, service personnel and their families, which was launched in January 2020.

Later that year, Caroline won the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards’ Champion of Women Award.

On the honorary degree, she said: “I am humbled and tremendously honoured by this award. This award embodies the exceptional value that Middlesex University places on equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Speaking to graduating students, Caroline said: “We are at our best when we are free and safe to be ourselves, and we are far stronger when we work at our best, together.

“As you begin the next chapter in your life, remember the values of this incredible learning institution. Be true to those values and to yourselves and you will set others free too.”

Her experience as the first openly transgender officer in the British Armed Forces, including her time spent at RAF Shawbury, are documented in her book, True Colours, which was published in 2017.

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