There have been openly TGD officers in modern policing since at least 1973. Fast-forward to today and literally hundreds of officers have transitioned genders on-the-job or more recently have been hired by agencies after they have transitioned and are living in their authentic gender. The governmental employment process may require comprehensive pre-placement medical and psychological examination and evaluation for each candidate. TGD officers are subject to the same processes regardless of whether they are openly TGD or still “closeted.” Providers should be aware that TGD officers and candidates are frightened of this process. Their fear and distrust, arises from providers not understanding the medical and emotional issues that the TGD community and individuals must deal with and how professionals view them. The pre-placement process then creates and additional level of fear and anxiety for a TGD individual than for non-TGD individuals.
The overwhelming majority of these officers have had negative experiences during the hiring process by local, state, and federal employers. These TGD officers have expressed fear, reluctance, distress, and most of all, they have expressed a distrust of the medical and psychological providers involved in the process of evaluating the officer’s fitness for duty.
We have asked members of the Transgender Community of Police & Sheriffs (TCOPS) to share their hiring process experiences. Our aim is to help medical and mental health providers understand the challenges that transgender candidates, recruits, and officers encounter, and the obstacles they must overcome to be hired or retained by their employers.
What follows are examples of those experiences:
“The experience that I had seems to be unique. When I told my sheriff that I wanted to transition (there was a longer explanation than that) he took my gun and badge and sent me to the psychologist and our medical contract doctor for a fitness evaluation. I cleared both but while I was still planning my transition at work and just before I transitioned, they sent me back to be evaluated again. The Sheriff is ultra-conservative and religious. He told other deputies that he did not want a “freak” in his department and was “trying to figure out a way to get rid” of me. He could not get the pronouns right and really didn’t even try. My gut feeling is that he sent me to the psych because he was hoping they would say I had mental illness and use that as an excuse to fire me. I ended up leaving the department but found a better job that was accepting. I had no problems clearing the pre-employment psychological or medical. I have since transitioned and have not had any administrative problems here.”
Anna, Deputy Sheriff, Texas
“As part of a conditional job offer, I was sent to a local health care provider that does pre-employ-ment medical examinations. There were a great many problems with my experience but one that stands out most was that I had spent about an hour completing a medical history form prior to my visit where I was asked in great detail about my gender confirmation surgery and related medical treatment. The nurse came into the exam room and went through the medical history with me page-by-page. At the end of the interview, he walked out of the room, closed the door, and stated loud enough for me to hear, “The tranny in room 4 is ready to see you.” The doctor came into the exam room moments later and was cold and “put off.” She was curt and required me to go through a series of additional tests, which she was later unable to explain or justify. Another doctor was provided with the same original information. She examined me and approved me for duty without reservation. I felt that the extra tests were ordered and were punitive because I am transgender.
The “tranny” reference was a slur and derogatory. Those terms have no place in a professional or social setting in my opinion. Medical professionals, including office staff should have a level of cultural competence and understanding that words are important; they can be empowering, but also demeaning. These terms were demeaning and certainly detracted from my experience, leaving me fearful of contacts with the medical profession for a time.
The biggest concern that I had at the time was getting hired. I wanted and needed this job and I felt that I was unable to voice my anger, frustration, and disappointment with the staff at the time of the incident(s) out of a sense of fear that I would not be selected for the position. In fact, I waited until I had been hired to voice these feelings and when I did, I felt as though they were not given the weight or attention that they were due. Virtually nothing happened. It was business as usual for the provider. This was the only issue I ever had with my employer, and I was with the county for nine years thereafter.”
J.C., District Attorney Investigator, California
“I worked for a state law enforcement agency. After I disclosed to my supervisor that I was trans-sexual and planning on transitioning from female to male, my sergeant informed my command staff. They called me into the office and told me that they were putting me on administrative leave. They took my badge and gun and sent me home and told me that they would be sending me to a psychological and medical fitness evaluation because they “thought I was nuts.”
I went to both appointments. The MD asked me if I knew why I as there. I explained the circumstances to him. He asked me about the double radical mastectomy and hysterectomy that I had years previously and about taking testosterone for the past three years. He told me, “Well I don’t know what they want me to do here. You are physically able to perform the job.” He told me that he would be completing his report indicating that I was medically fit to be a highway patrol officer.
I went to the mandated psych appointment. I was asked to take three different diagnostic instruments and then went into an interview with the psychologist. He asked me about my gender issues and took a lengthy history from me. He asked if I had done any research on the topic. I explained that I had and that I had been seeing a therapist for the better part of ten years to address these issues. I explained that I had suffered with these feelings, all of my life. He asked about my relationships and sexual orientation. I have been in a long-term relationship with my significant other for many years and I did not consider myself to be lesbian, though others may see it that way. I consider myself male, even if my anatomy may not represent a male form to most people. This testing and interview took the better part of an entire day. I was sent home with no other information.
A few weeks later, I was called in to the Captain’s office. When I arrived, I found that my locker had been emptied and the contents were in a box on the floor of the office. I felt that the writing was on the wall. The Captain and a woman from Human Resources were in the meeting. I was told that while lesbians were not “accepted,” they were “tolerated” by the department, but that the department did not accept or tolerate anyone that had a mental disorder. They told me that transsexuals were considered “mentally ill” and could not be law enforcement officers. They terminated my employment based on a finding of mental illness. This was in 2011.”
“I transitioned from male-to-female one decade ago, working as a police officer in a large California agency. The department was not happy about my “coming out,” but I was able to keep my job. I notified the department that I would need to take extended time-off so that I could have gender surgery. I was told that I would be using my own accrued time off and not “medical leave.” I had a great deal of time on the books and did not mind but was concerned about the appropriateness of this direction.
I went out of the country for surgery and was away for three months. I returned to the U.S. and continued to convalesce for another month. I felt ready to return to work after four months off.
My surgeon came to the U.S. on other business and directed me to a physician here in the states to examine me. That surgeon, with the agreement of my GCS (gender confirmation surgery) surgeon, agreed that I was healed and ready to return to physical duties.
I advised my agency, and they directed me to get a letter from my GCS surgeon, indicating that he had performed irreversible surgical procedures by removing my testis and penis and created a neo-vagina. I asked why this documentation was needed. An assistant chief of police told me that it was needed to “allow” me to use the women’s restroom and locker room. I asked where this letter would be kept and who would have access to it? I was told that it would be kept in my city medical record and that only the medical staff would have access to it, only after I delivered the letter to the assistant chief’s office before my return to work.
I later learned that the assistant chief was passing the letter around to some of my co-workers at a poker party and they all had a “good laugh over it.” Crude jokes followed. Later, when I was ready to retire, I asked for a copy of my city medical file and was advised that it was not available. A legal battle ensued and the file was later “located.” The letter that I was directed to have written describing my personal, confidential medical information associated with my GCS, was mysteriously not in the file.”
A.G., Police Officer, California
“I am currently on work-related disability leave for a heart arrhythmia. A workers’ compensation adjustor thought it was relevant to request medical records from my GRS (gender reassignment surgery)/GCS surgeon. I am concerned about releasing such personal, confidential information. I do not feel that my genital surgery is relevant to my heart arrhythmia and that the request for “all records” is overbroad. The adjustor was not asking the GRS/GCS surgeon for any pre-operative testing or examination notes pertaining to my heart or cardiological health or findings.
While I questioned the medical necessity and reasonableness of the request, I felt compelled to go against my better judgment and allow the records to be released to assure that WC covered the corrective medical procedure. A few short years ago I had an exhaustive pre-employment medical examination by the city, and they have a substantial amount of medical documentation including EKG, treadmill test, and an in-person examination by the city’s contract medical provider. My GRS/GCS was before I came into the employ of the city, and they were fully aware of the circumstances before I was hired. The city did not ask for this kind of documentation at any time, which begs the question, why?
I feel that the adjustor was being unreasonable in this request. It is highly embarrassing to have a non-physician reading through and looking at my personal, confidential, and intimate medical records, anatomically correct diagrams of my genitals, and before and after photographs of my genital site.”
C.L., Police Officer, Northern California
“I would like to state that XXXX City administration was basically like: “Wow, we never had a transgender employee before, but we are going to set the bar with you.” This quote is from HR and that was it, there was a friendly email from the chief to the other cops giving notification of my new name, that I would use the female restrooms in the near future and written with female pronouns… but there was no fitness-for-duty evaluation after that whatsoever, it was just like “let’s all get back to work,” and I think that says something too, there is no mandate for FFDE and after the Supreme Court ruling this summer there is no basis for requiring it at all.”
K.M., Police Department, Texas
“I am a retired Federal Air Marshal (FAM) and was a law enforcement officer for 26 years. I began my gender transition in 2004 and immediately began working with the FAM Medical Division and Human Resources office. I provided them with all the information which they had requested. I also answered their specific questions about my gender transition, medications, and surgical procedures planned in the future. I did this prior to notifying the agency administration that I was transgender and planning on transitioning from male to female. The medical division cleared me for duty after a full review of my medical history and records.
Upon notifying the agency administration of my intent to transition genders, the news was met with hostility directed towards me. I was officially served with a fitness-for-duty evaluation (FFDE) notice, directing me to participate in the mandatory medical and psychological process after my family and I, attended an off-duty event at a professional baseball game. I was presenting in male mode but wearing unisex earrings. Several of my team members and my immediate supervisor were also there. At the time, the FFDE was issued, it was made clear to me that it was a direct result of the above off-duty event. The situation had been reported by my immediate supervisor and the supervising agent in charge (SAC), who contributed to an on-going hostile work environment.
I later learned through the equal employment opportunity (EEO) process, that the FFDE process was controlled by agency headquarters, and not by the Medical Division. It was my experience that FFDE examinations in regard to transgender people were/are used to disqualify officers or agents, based on the administrator’s personal bias and/or prejudices, and were not based upon the employee’s medical or mental health and their fitness to perform the duties expected of the position.”
VP, U.S. Senior Federal Air Marshal (Ret.)
“Once I received a job offer with XXXXX, after transition in Idaho, I underwent a thorough physical exam with a female doctor. As I was getting dressed, she began asking all the normal questions to include prior surgeries. Her head was down and she was busy filling out forms when I told her about my gender surgery. She froze in place and the pencil dropped from her hand rather dramatically. She looked up at me with a look of restrained anger on her face asking, “Does the Police Bureau know about this!?” I told her I already completed a background investigation and they have known since my initial application. She finished my paperwork and left the room without another word.”
Anonymous, Police Officer, Oregon