|Sgt. Stephanie Lourenco
Last year, a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the verdict in Philecia Barnesâ employment discrimination suit bringing national attention to prejudice within law enforcement agencies. Not all trans women in uniform face discrimination during or after their transition; in fact, some are surprised to find support when they come out.
San Jose, Calif. police officer, Julie Marin assumed she could never transition on the job, and it took several years for her to go from talking about transitioning to actually doing it. When she finally approached a Deputy Chief of Police (who happened to be lesbian), Marin says, âShe was a little thrown off by my revelation, but [she] was supportive.â
After 22 years in law enforcement, Marin transitioned while working as a detectiveâwhich she believes made the transition easier than if sheâd been in uniform. But the reaction to her transition wasnât all positive.
âThere were some who had problemsânamely my partner at work, whom I had worked with for 11 years undercover and working closely with. We do not speak to this day..â
Without the difficulties and lost friends, Marin, now 47, might not have started TCOPS (www.tcops.org), the support group for Police officers questioning their gender or transitioning, as well as those who have âa gender identity issue in their present or past.â Since itâs inception in 2002, the group has outgrown its moniker: Transgender Community of Police & Sheriffs. Now it serves other law enforcement officers, including federal agents, parole officers and community service, and boasts members from around the globe. Marinâwho returned to patrol two years agoâhopes to establish a San Jose police liaison to the LGBT community, which she sees as essential in addressing LGBT distrust of law enforcement.
Another TCOP member, Portland, Oregonâs Sergeant Stephanie Lourenco was promoted long after she transitioned, and she raves about her subordinates. âIâve been told by almost everyone on my shift that Iâm the best sergeant they have ever had.â
When Lourenco first decided to transition, she was in Coeur dâAlene, Idaho area, and like Marin, she assumed sheâd have to leave the force. But Lourencoâs supervisors wouldnât hear of it. Lourenco was a skills instructor, training other officers and teaching at police academies.
âIt didnât make sense that I was leaving. I finally disclosed my true reasons to a lieutenant that I knew and he was like, âIs that all? You canât leave then.â I was astounded and took it to the chief. He supported me 100 percent, saying heâd be proud to keep me on.â
It turned out that fellow officers didnât share the support of her supervisors.
âI left because the rank and file would not speak to me or even look at me. They were slow to cover me on calls and sometimes didnât even show up. After a few months a state trooper I knew told me to be careful. Cops were openly talking about how they would shoot me themselves if given the chance. I decided to leave.â
Lourenco took a job in Portland, Ore., and she says that word of her gender transition preceded her. âThe word was outâand so was I. Iâve been accepted since day one and made many great friends on the Portland Police Bureau.â
Lourenco says that as a female officer she felt underestimatedâby both the public and other officers. âMy co-workers get over that quickly once Iâve proven myself and, well, by the time the bad guys figure out their mistake they are already in handcuffs. I like that the bad guys underestimate me.â
Marin says after she transitioned, her voice was no longer heard in meetings. âAny opinion that I would express had little or no weight,â she recalls. âI had been an investigator-detective of some renown, and was often asked for my opinions and expertise. Iâve had to change how I do business. I have to work behind the scenes and feed information and ideas to others, who many times pass them off as their own. As one of my [female] friends, a Lieutenant, told me: âWelcome to my world.ââ