My name is George, I’m 20 years old and work for state Law Enforcement in Australia. I joined the job being open about who I am. Not once have I denied the person that I am to my fellow colleagues. The majority of responses that I’ve received from fellow colleagues have been positive – beyond my imagination. I joined this line of working expecting to receive at least some kind of scrutiny or judgement for who I am. The less positive support hasn’t necessarily been negative either, it’s been ‘civil’. Civil enough for my sexuality to not interfere with the way I could work with others, and that’s all I ask for.
I don’t expect the same welcomes for the duration of my career. I know that at times my sexuality will hinder the way I work with other people. I’m not trying to be negative when I say that – I’ve just got my eyes opened enough to be aware of the realities of this world. At the same time I’m not going to try and let those situations bring me down. It’s hard being a young and gay Police Officer in a line of work that is traditionally so macho. Some people may and will judge your ability to do the work – I think it’s important to just put your head down and show them you can do it, just like anyone else.
1. How did you become interested in law enforcement, firefighting, or the EMS profession?
I’ve always wanted a career where you could go home feeling like you’ve made some change for the good. Not once have I associated sexuality or masculinity with this line of work. I don’t think gender, age, race, sex or any factors should influence someone’s interest in Law Enforcement.
2. When did you discover you were gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual and what did you think about relative to your interest in law enforcement, firefighting or EMS?
I knew that I was definitely gay by the time I was 16. The years leading up (from about 13-15) or ‘puberty’ as you may want to call it were confusing but I never said to myself “I’m gay” until about 16.
I would be lying if I said that I’ve never doubted my ability to work well in law enforcement because of my sexuality. I think the key to being successful and having a healthy career is to not let who you are affect what you do. Prior to joining, there would be times (many times) where I would think to myself that my sexuality would always potentially have a bearing on my ability to do the job. Perhaps it’s moreso the way I could work and get along with people.
Law Enforcement is a job where communication with colleagues is very important. If ever you encounter a colleague who has an issue with your sexuality there is no doubt it would affect the way you are able to do your job.
3. Describe your experience getting hired and going through your training academy. Were you out? Did you come out during the academy?
I only came out to a selected few close friends during the academy. I did not make myself completely out mainly due to the fact that I knew the academy would eventually be over. I wanted to focus on my studies at the academy. I felt that it just wasn’t necessary to be out at that point. Getting hired was no issue. Progression from the academy to employment is basically automatic in Australia.
4. What was it like starting off in your department? Did you come out? If not, what kept you, or is currently keeping you from coming out at work?
I’ve never come out without any sort of initiation on someone else’s part. I do not advertise the fact that I’m gay. I also do not hide it when asked whether or not I have a partner or ‘girlfriend’.
5. Describe your most difficult situation being gay in your public safety profession.
Not being able to actively participate in certain conversations. As much as my colleagues have expressed their acceptance towards me, sometimes I still feel as though we are not on the same page.
I know that sexuality does not define a person but I still feel as though I don’t get along with some people as much as I know I could if I were a straight male. For example, conversations about girls or a wife and kids. I don’t hold it against them, the majority of the workplace are straight guys and I am sure if I were a straight guy I would be talking about the same thing. There is just some conversation that a gay male cannot genuinely relate to.
6. What specific event or general experience surprised you most about being gay in your profession.
The acceptance. People’s willingness to be open and accept you I am. I honestly expected to face a lot of issues early on in my career. There’s not much more I can say to that.
7. What, if anything, would you have done differently relative to being gay in your profession?
8. One of the important goals of this book is to help fellow gay law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMS professionals and their allies. What advice can you provide to the following people?
If you feel that the satisfaction you get from performing your duties in your line of work far outweighs the potential hiccups along the way because of your sexuality, keep doing it.
Sometimes problems will come about. If this is what you want to do then just focus on the work.
8A. A gay teenager who is thinking about the best way to get into your public safety profession.
Do everything it at your own pace. Do what you want when you’re ready. Nobody forces you to do anything in this life.
8B. A fellow public safety professional who is gay, but not out to anyone at work.
Do everything it at your own pace. Do what you want when you’re ready. Nobody forces you to do anything in this life. When it gets too hard, seek help. There are people out there who care – don’t ever forget that.
8C. An agency executive or manager who is an ally and wants to support gay public safety professionals.
Support is always good. It helps move things forward in this society that sometimes struggles to excel.
9. What else would you like to say that you feel is most important for readers to know about you or your ideas?
Being gay is never easy whether you’re in Law Enforcement, Firefighting, Medical Services, or even in the corporate world. There is always potential for problems.
10. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’ve said everything that I’ve wanted to say. I hope that I’ve had some influence.