An Indignant Cop

By Nik Rasheta (also published at http://theabhaus.blogspot.com/)

In April 2012 the police department that I work for announced that it was going to allow uniformed officers to March in the Phoenix Gay Pride Parade. Officers everywhere around me were upset with this announcement and were feeling like they were going to be represented by an ideological position that they did not agree with. Growing up in a conservative religion (Mormonism) I felt the same tug and abhorrence at this news and felt offended by it. I was completely uneducated and ignorant of perspectives and ideas that would tolerate and even celebrate such a public acceptance of the LGBT mindset.

On April 11th I did a Google image search for “Gay Pride Parade” and began to imagine uniformed police officers and the Honor Guard detail that was being requested marching in front of or behind the people and floats that I was observing in my Google search. I read the words from the Gay Pride Parade website that said the parade “intends to promote unity, visibility, and self-esteem among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons” yet I was observing images on my Google search that evoked words such as arrogance, insensitivity, flaunting, haughtiness, immaturity, and rebellion. In my moment of emotional indignity I drafted a letter to the Chief of Police demanding an answer to why some officers were being allowed to represent all officers in a parade that would be in most of their opinions grossly inconsistent with their values. I pushed send on my email and waited to see what response would develop.

Within a few days I learned that the email I had sent was now being forwarded to many other members of the department and I was being championed as a friend to the conservative and indignant opposition to equal rights and a foe to those who favor equal rights. I had a few openly lesbian co-workers approach me and confront me in my letter to the Chief and my views. The conversations were emotionally charged and I could see the pain I had caused. I left the conversations feeling like I was right and they were wrong and that they were distorting their views of me based on leaps in the emotional turbulence of the topic. A meeting was held for people to get answers about the police department’s decision to participate and I received a call by an acquaintance and was asked to go to the meeting and represent “those of us who are against the gay agenda”. I began to realize that I didn’t know anything about the “gay agenda” and that I didn’t feel knowledgeable enough to represent anyone regarding that topic. All I knew was that I felt indignant looking through my Google search images and imagining myself marching within the scenes I had observed in my search.

I did not go to the meeting and I decided that if my email and my name were going to be used for or against such a polarizing topic, I better get more understanding and education on this topic. The first education I received was through my conversations with my gay and lesbian co-workers. I was humbled while speaking to them. I knew that although they had every reason to despise me they still opened up their hearts as I spoke to them and asked questions about their “choice” to be gay or lesbian. I quickly felt that their choice to be that way was just as illusory as my choice had been to decide I was straight. All the wishing and pretending in the world would never make me feel attracted to the same sex and suddenly I realized how ignorant it was to think the opposite was justified or desirable toward them.

Sometime in the summer of 2012 I began to read books and listen to podcasts and watch movies that told the stories of LGBT folks from their perspectives. I began to feel disgust and shame as I saw “For the Bible Tells me So” and read about parents disowning children, and all the suicide stories. It became sickening, and at times despairing to see “love, respect, and equality” thrown out the window by people who simultaneously profess a belief in a God who is love.

Exactly 6 months after writing my letter to the Chief I decided to draft a second letter but this time it was written to the commander who had initiated our department’s involvement in the parade. She is openly lesbian and I wanted to reach out to her and attempt to heal some of the pain and wounds I was feeling inside of me. I felt like my first letter had been written out of ignorance and was influenced by cultural biases. My emotions had been triggered by the images from a Google search that turned out to be very inconsistent with the pictures and scenes from the Phoenix Gay Pride Parade that they ended up marching in. My world views were becoming much more focused and were founded on educating myself to both perspectives and hearing stories from the other side. I expressed my deepest apology to her for contributing to the opposition she must have faced when she challenged the department to show more equality by marching in the parade. I told her that I thought she was an admirable person for being true to herself and for standing proud in the face of so much cultural and religious bias and ignorance against her. I apologized for adding any weight to the opposition and I told her that I know that I stood in the wrong when I didn’t join in the walk side by side with all of my co-workers seeking equality in that parade. I asked her to keep up the good fight for equality and to know that one more person has joined the ranks to help our department and community and culture become more aware of the inequality that faces those who wish to live true to themselves with same gender attraction.

One year later on April 6, 2013 my wife and I took our kids to the Phoenix Gay Pride Parade and we marched with several other police officers. The department had a new policy for this event and we marched wearing polo shirts with the police logo but not in full uniform. I felt immense satisfaction and the most tender feelings walking among my LGBT brothers and sisters. It felt amazing to have opened my heart and to have been willing to listen and learn and then soften my views. When I walked in that parade I felt a deep and satisfying sense of love for all mankind and I saw past the labels that we carry. For a blissful amount of time I embraced that love for humanity and dreamt of a day when we can all tolerate our differences.

Nik

5 comments for “An Indignant Cop

  1. Ann Karlovac
    April 11, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I really like this post :)

    I am trans/intersex and I’m trying to get into law enforcement. I started with volunteer work before transitioning, and I came out to the other volunteers. Big mistake :( I tried to go back to the volunteer force after transition, but they won’t even talk to me.

    One department I applied with for full time work did everything they could to DQ me at every step in the process, including several unlawful and unethical actions. They even started harassing relatives who worked for them to put pressure on me.

    I’m on track to get hired at a university department now, so no big deal, but it still hurts to be ostracized from others on the same side of the thin blue line.

    I like reading about straight allies and how they arrived at acceptance. It helps restore my faith in people after the crap I’ve been through.

    I think many forget that a big part of community policing is that we are their neighbors. We can’t reach out to the community; we are the community and just have to be ourselves.

  2. Robert Buckner
    April 11, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I served with Nick in Iraq with the Utah National Guard in 2003. Even though I wasn’t OUT to him at that time, I did have immense respect for him but now after getting to know him better and seeing his spiritual progress that respect is exponentially greater. Thanks.

  3. Lorian Dunlop
    April 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Nik, this post is so beautiful I have no words. Thank you for your open mind and loving heart.

  4. Becky Coombs
    April 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Nik, your honesty and bravery are inspiring. Thank you!

  5. Jen
    April 26, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Awesome that you were able to learn and grow and admit your errors.

    My story is basically similar, but far less dramatic.

    Thanks for sharing!

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