The Gender Identity Divide

BY Advocate.com Editors

November 16 2009 8:40 PM ET

Julie Marin, a veteran police officer in California’s Silicon Valley area, transitioned during her tenure, in 2001. Her department’s deputy chief, a lesbian, was initially overwhelmed by Marin’s decision, yet took the time to educate herself and other officers on gender identity. Some colleagues have since called Marin “a disgrace to the uniform” or voiced their displeasure about sharing locker-room facilities. “But I’ve been lucky,” says Marin, 51, who has been on the job 28 years. “I’ve been treated well for the most part.”

Many of her peers haven’t been so fortunate. In 2002, Marin started a small Internet discussion group that evolved into the Transgender Community of Police and Sheriffs (T-COPS), with a membership that now spans five countries. Her extensive outreach confirms Sears’s observations. “In our line of work, having someone back you up is vital,” she says. “If you don’t have assistance, you can get hurt or killed. There are incidences where officers have called for help on the radio — not called for help, screamed for help —  no one answers.”

The atmosphere in law enforcement has improved in recent years with the addition of younger, more tolerant officers, Marin says. But as was the case with Beasley in Los Angeles, getting hired in the first place is an obstacle — one that has never been fully remedied for minorities by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and one that certainly won’t go away for LGBT men and women under ENDA. Marin, a seasoned criminal investigator, will retire in a few years from the force on which she’s served since the early 1980s, but she wants to work with a state or county agency after she leaves. “But I can’t find a job to save my soul,” she says. “Had I remained male and carried out my career for the past 10 years, I believe I would have been accepted into one of these positions rather easily. I wouldn’t have to be sending out 300 résumés.”

Unless transgender men and women become more visible — and valued — members of the gay community, Beasley says she isn’t hopeful the picture is going to change anytime soon, even if she believes a federal law banning discrimination is a step in the right direction. “Most of society and the community looks down on transgenders,” Beasley says. “Why is it that when you look around this neighborhood and you see so many trans people, none of them are working in jobs anywhere? Most employers just don’t want transgenders working for them. If you can’t get a legal, legitimate job, of course you’re going to have to make money in some other way.”  

 

 

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