Gay or Straight?

Here's a little tip, fellas: just because she won't go out with you doesn't mean she's a lesbian. It just means she doesn't want to go out with you. Why she doesn't want to go out with you is more your problem than hers. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if one of our female police officers (we have 80) is gay, I could have retired years ago!

I was going to title this article "How to Tell If a Female Cop Is a Lesbian" because we are all naturally curious about things that are different and naturally nosy when we work in the world of policing. But the truth of the matter is--WHO CARES? Why should it matter if a female police officer (or a male officer, for that matter) is gay or straight? ? Being a member of the International Association of Women Police, I have met a number of extraordinary policewomen. They have 2,500 members from all over the world, and yes, a fraction of the members are gay. When I attend IAWP conferences or meetings, their sexual orientation is the last thing on my mind. In fact, my friend had to tell me that two of the people I knew quite well were partners. Not street partners--life partners. I didn't even notice, not out of naivety, but my "care factor" was just real low. It simply didn't matter.

Any profession is going to have its share of homosexual people within its workforce, just like they have a share of people who like to play hockey or go to the opera. Professions such as policing may be more attractive to females who are lesbians, due to the nature of the work and the type of strong personalities they may have. The job is not for the weak of heart, you know! To me, if a female can face the constant criticism that comes with living openly as a lesbian, then they can face just about anything policing can throw at them. Daily criticism and hatred, ignorant people staring, a lack of understanding--if that doesn't sound like what police officers face everyday from our public, what does?

What is really the issue is how poorly some gay female officers are treated. Depending on the culture of the individual police force, some gay female officers face constant gay-bashing jokes, and some can't find a partner who will work with them. That's the tame stuff. There has been verbal, emotional and physical abuse to the point where the female officer feels they must quit in order to survive. C'mon folks, it's 2006! Invite a little flexibility and understanding into your life. Stop the traditional black and white thinking, and open up to someone who is just different than you; nothing else, just different. These are the people we swear to protect from harm--not harm ourselves!

So next time one of colleagues jokes around about a female officer's sexual preference, do me a favor--make it your business to tell them it's none of their business.