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Homosexual Police Officers

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Autor:   •  March 29, 2011  •  1,490 Words (6 Pages)  •  741 Views

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Abstract

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 Ð''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.

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