I am a success story. There are thousands out there, but here is mine. I started in the police academy in 1987. The class had 18 cadets….17 men and me. I was the only woman, doubtful I was the only gay person. In the 1980s it was getting better for women in law enforcement, but it was still a very tough row to hoe. Being a gay woman in law enforcement is not an unusual thing, as you can imagine. Being an “out” gay woman when I started was just not possible in Texas. People might have figured it out, but in the department you did not discuss it.
I thrived in the two departments I worked at, overcoming sexism and ignoring homophobia. I became the first woman sergeant at my second department. I was proud of my achievements. I made my time a success, but I will not sugar-coat it, I suffered in silence more than a few times.
How would you like to attain a job by lying? Do you think that is a good way to start a career? Police departments in Texas are allowed under the law to polygraph incoming cadets. The third question they asked me on the exam was if I had ever had intercourse with another woman. I lied and showed no deception. I don’t know what that says about the polygraph or my skills to mask deception. I prefer to think the polygraph is a big hunk of junk.
Police departments also send you to a psychologist where they interview you and in the 80s tried to pick up on any mental illness you might have…being a queer was on the list.
I am thankful for my experience as a cop. I gained a wealth of knowledge and some life-long friendships. I am a better attorney today because of my time wearing the badge.
But I also endured fag jokes, being called a Dyke at least once a week by a drunk, and not being able to participate in the Explorers. The Explorers were a group of young school kids that want to learn about being a cop. It is a mentoring program that was sponsored by the police department and under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts have always been vehemently against gay Americans….I knew that then and politely declined to be involved.
Boy, has it gotten better in the last 25 years!! I am so excited and cannot wait for what I feel is about to happen in the next couple of years. Society is evolving and coming to understand what we queers have known all along. We are just like you, we ARE you. Our Constitutional rights are going to be acknowledged in the near future….I am happy….and sad that it took until the second decade in the 21st Century….but mostly just happy.
I went to the gay pride parade in San Francisco a couple of years ago with my spouse. We met up with our cousin Sherry there and watched the parade from the high perch of our hotel window. I expected a grand party and a very good time that day, I did not expect a life-changing event.
Approaching right underneath our viewpoint came marching uniformed members of the San Francisco Police Department. They were holding hands with their significant others and their children! The Chief of Police and the Mayor were in the parade too…it was an unbelievable sight for me. My twenty-five year old self would have never believed that I would one day see such a thing. I saw myself walking in the parade that day. I truly saw myself.
I was acknowledged that day in a way like never before. The openly gay members of all police departments should know that people like me walk with them. Those that have come before and suffered the silence of not being true to ourselves….service prefaced on a lie.
I watched the below video this week and was reminded of my feelings at the parade that day. What a beautiful thing it is. I want to serve my city…I want to lay my life on the line….I want you to know I am a gay American. I want to be heard. I want to speak the truth.
Thank you to the City of San Francisco and to the brave men and women…gay and straight…that serve that wonderful city. I patiently wait for the rest of the country to follow your lead, as some have already. Until then know I, and many others, walk the beat with you and relish in your truth.