Policing is an occupation that is gendered and sexualized. Ideals of heterosexual masculinity inform practices and social interactions within policing. This study explores how police officers manage a homosexual orientation within this organizational environment. Using qualitative survey responses from a sample of “out” and “closeted” gay and lesbian police officers in a Midwestern city, the authors examine (1) how heterosexual, masculine police organizations inform their experiences; (2) how officers construct multiple identities of sexual orientation, gender, and race-ethnicity; and (3) what strategies officers utilize to manage their homosexual orientation in the workplace. The authors are interested in how multiple identities involving race-ethnicity, gender, and “out” versus “closeted” status shape officers’ strategies for surviving in a potentially hostile work environment. The findings suggest that these officers support a more humane approach to policing and see themselves as particularly qualified to work within marginal communities. Despite the structural barriers of homophobia and sexism that tempered these officers’ full acceptance and access to the police subculture, lesbian and gay officers struggled to balance job demands with their sexual orientation, gender, race-ethnicity, and other dimensions of their identities.
- gay/lesbian police
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies
- Sociology and Political Science
- Literature and Literary Theory