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Homosexual Police Officers

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Autor:  anton  29 March 2011
Tags:  Homosexual,  Police,  Officers
Words: 1490   |   Pages: 6
Views: 704


Media coverage surrounding alternative sexualities has also expanded in recent years and, in the wake of gay liberation and the emergence of lesbian and gay studies, an ever increasing flow of academic documentation pertaining to sexual orientation has flourished. We now know more about homosexual lives in general and about the experiences of particular groups such as those in prison those who offer sex in exchange for money and those who lived during particular historical periods. However, with the knowledge and awareness about what it means to be gay or lesbian has increased considerably, there remains an ignorance on a number of homosexual issues. Explanations of why sexual orientations differ are still inadequate, and in a society that can still be hostile towards "deviant" sexual relationships, particularly in conjunction with various other co-factors such as occupation, can affect self-esteem, the development of personal identity, Christian ethics and general psychological functioning.

Many straight male police officers are against anything feminine. Being a competent female officer challenges assumptions that policing is a masculine occupation suited only for masculine men, so too does being a competent gay male officer. Homophobic attitudes in society at large and within law enforcement in particular create many problems for the gay or lesbian officer. On the job and interoffice up brings conflict between officers. Therefore, the gay or lesbian officer who is being mistreated on the job lacks respectful protection to confront the problem of being discriminated against. Unlike one's race or sex, lesbian and gay officers can choose to try to conceal their sexual orientation. Thus, some officers may experience the stress of staying closeted. Having the stress to remain closeted can bring the officer to the point of lacking performance, undependability, and even suicide.

Interoffice Issues

Gay officers may try to present a heterosexual image by playing along with the macho sexual bravado. A lesbian officer may tolerate flirtations from male officers in order to protect her sexual identity or dismiss rumors that she is a lesbian. Male officers are expected to be masculine or risk being labeled a "faggot." Women officers are expected to be feminine, at least not masculine, or risk being labeled a "dyke". According to Burke (1994), gay and lesbian officers also may have to endure the homophobic attitudes of colleagues. For example, in 1998, two male New York City police officers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city and the Police Department. One of the officers, a thirteen year member of the force, reported being subjected to offense and harassing conduct by officers, including being assaulted, forced into his locker, handcuffed and suspended from a coat rack, and having members of the command attempt to force him into simulating oral sex with another officer (para. 1). For some officers, the torment and ridicule may be severe enough to cause them to seek early retirement or psychiatric treatment. According to Burke (1994), the discrepant status of homosexuality in law, the machismo sub-culture of the police and the role of the police as regulators of deviance all make it difficult for the police to adopt or accept a non-conformist orientation. The status of lesbianism is also examined in relation to police culture and it is further suggested that the experiences of women as В‘deviant' in this regard may not be similar to those of their male colleagues (para.7). Some lesbian officers report harassment on the basis of their gender or their sexual orientation or a combination of both (Burke, 1994).

According to Ekklesia (2006), a helpline is set up for gay police officers, which indicates an increase in homophobic bullying and harassment from other officers. The Gay Police Association (GPA) reports that there has been a 75 percent increase in calls on its 24-hour action line and gives warning of a rise in "faith-based homophobia" from Christian and Muslim officers" (para.3). Unlike Georgia certain states, such as Florida and New York, have support organizations for gay law enforcement officers.

Support Organizations

The presence of women and gay men on the police force challenges the traditional heterosexually masculine definition of the occupation. Recognizing the need for gay and lesbian police officers and other criminal justice professionals to have an arena to discuss needs and concerns in an atmosphere free of job-related reprisals, the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) was established in 1981. GOAL continues to provide a safe environment for people who have been, and continue to be, victims of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, while at the same time attempting to change homophobic attitudes in the workplace and in the community at large (Dahir, 1999). Other organizations such as Law Enforcement Gays and Lesbians (LEGAL) also offer support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers in the criminal justice system. According to Dahir (1999), The Gay Police Association (GPA) was formed in 1990 by a handful of officers in the Metropolitan Police. Since then it has grown into a formally recognized and respected staff association with members in all 52 UK police forces. The GPA is the only national organization that specifically represents the needs and interests of gay police staff in the United Kingdom (para.1). Membership is open to all Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Transsexual Police Officers and Police Staff.

Closet Policing

Some gay and lesbian officers fear for their safety. According to Paulding (2005), a lesbian officer stated "If I were a gay man, I don't know if I'd be out. . . I can see where a gay man would really be in fear for his life every single day from his fellow officers" (para. 10). Living a life in deceit and trying to hide their inner self can be very difficult on a person, especially someone who in authority, is not accepted for the lifestyle they choose to live. According to Burke (1994), illustrations of how officers often live "double" as opposed to "integrated" lives as a result of their predicament are offered, and it is proposed that the stress caused by leading two discrete existences may be detrimental

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to mental health and significant in the ability of officers to perform effectively at work, or form stable or satisfying personal relationships (para.6). Homophobic officers eventually could become unhappy with their secret life fail to perform their job adequately. Responsibilities for their job and other officers fail, and committing suicide is sometimes the last resort. Is this sentence out of place?

According to Dahir (1999), in 1998 a 26-year old gay police officer in Philadelphia committed suicide with the departments 9mm pistol. Kalt was Philadelphia's first openly gay police recruit. After graduating from the police academy, Kalt had served on the force for less than three weeks. In December alone Kalt twice made the front page of the Philadelphia Gay News. His biggest fear in his job was being known as "the gay cop" (pg.1). Although, there was not any direct evidence linking the suicide to his sexual preference, many homophobic officers cannot take the pressure of their closet life and their life results in suicide.

Christian Ethics

There were 14 cases last year involving homophobia based on religion. According to Ekklesia (2006), cases included officers who had refused to work with gay officers or were withdrawn from groups discussing equality within forces. Police managers were unsure of what action to take. Most managers turn to the Christian Police Association (para. 2). According to Burke (1994), within the association it is certainly not a condition of membership and it is not a question do not ask anyone their sexual orientation when they apply. However, the association states that "to make a lasting impact on society, Christians need to demonstrate their adherence to biblical ethics"(para.2). This, for many

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conservative Christians, implies hostility to homosexuality.


An occupation can affect self-esteem, the development of personal identity and general psychological functioning. In the Law Enforcement aspect of the criminal justice system, the issues of a gay police officer seem to be a do not ask do not tell atmosphere. In conjunction with the armed forces, police officers face many issues not only on the streets protecting society but inner office as well. Psychologically, homosexual police officers struggle with themselves, because he/she lives two separate lives. Closet policing interferes with the performance of their career. The homosexual police officer struggles with the typical homosexual remarks and pretends to be someone they have no desire to become. Once a police officer is out of the closet and makes the announcement of their sexuality, homophobia sets in and the police officer can be prone to bashing, not only from the citizens he/she protects but also, their co-workers. Many organizations are set up for the protection and security of homosexual police officers and express the issues freely in reference to gay rights.

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