He was married four times to women, and had one son.
In 1997 he privately informed his commanding officer of his intention to become a woman. Shortly afterwards, when Rushton was handing over the company to another Sergeant Major, 22 soldiers arrived in drag. The commanding officer dismissed this as simply horseplay.
Rushton became a woman as Joanne in 1998, and was transferred to a desk job in training and recruitment, but the gender in her medical and administrative files was not changed. She was passed over for promotion, and some colleagues continued to refer to her as a man.
She was dismissed in March 2003 with long service and good conduct medals, but was disciplined on two occasions involving 'inappropriate language'. All this was in disregard of the guidelines/instructions AGAI 76 re transitions within the Army. Rushton unsuccessfully sued the Ministry of Defence for discrimination later that year.
- Richard Saville. "When Sgt Major Joe said he wanted to be Joanne his men had only one response - to go on parade in drag". The Telegraph, 18 Sep 2003. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1441728/When-Sgt-Major-Joe-said-he-wanted-to-be-Joanne-his-men-had-only-one-response-to-go-on-parade-in-drag.html.
- “Transsexual 'discriminated against' ". BBC News. 25 September 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/3140648.stm.
- "Sex-Swap Soldier Speaks Out". Sixth Sense, 20 Nov 2003. http://home.arcor.de/royal-signals/page1/files/page1-1015-full.html.