Being part of the LGBTQ2 community

Inspector Mia Poscente

A regular member in Toronto, Ontario, she identifies as a gay woman.

What does the acronym LGBTQ2 mean to you?

Of course, I know what each letter stands for, but I have mixed feelings about the acronym. I don't like being called a Lesbian, because as I was growing up, the term was always used in a derogatory way. I prefer to be called gay or queer.

When I first hit the scene, the acronym was just four-letters: LGBT. Over the years, it's been expanded and I absolutely see the value in doing that. The world evolves and language evolves, so it's important for the acronym to remain inclusive and relevant. I only struggle with changing it because it can cause a backlash. Some people become fatigued when they have to learn a new version to make sure they aren't offending or alienating anyone. Some people throw their hands in the air and ask why do we need to have these labels? Aren't we all just people? They're worried about saying the wrong thing and causing offence when they really don't intend to. They genuinely want to be inclusive, they just don't know what to say anymore because we keep changing the acronym. I see both sides.

I'm on the O Division Gender and Harassment Advisory Committee (GHAC). I am also part of an informal LGBTQ2 network. We wanted a simper term we could use internally, and decided on Queer Network as a good catchall. Of course, there are people who find the term queer offensive. You're never going to make everyone happy. I like to say PLU… People Like Us.

As an RCMP employee, what's been your experience as a member of the gender diverse community?

Overall, I have felt valued and respected, but I have also had difficulties.

I began my policing career with Peel Regional Police in 1988. At that time, being gay was not cool. I was in the closet and secretive, it was a difficult way to live my life. From 1995, I spent five years working on a joint forces operation with the RCMP and, during that time, I was immersed in the RCMP culture. I met other people who were gay and completely out, which I thought was great. When I joined the RCMP in 2001, I was fully out and it wasn't an issue. Being my true self at work was wonderfully liberating. As a federal agency, the RCMP was on the forefront of allowing same-sex partners to share pensions and other benefits. What I didn't realize was that, just because an organization has inclusive policies, doesn't mean everyone who works for the organization shares those broadminded values. I was a bit naïve. I was comfortable being myself and my friends were fine with it, but there were other people in the RCMP who didn't feel the same way. I wasn't vocal about it, but I'm sure I rubbed some people the wrong way.

When my wife and I married on June 16, 2005, we were the first same-sex couple to get married in the RCMP and I had a difficult time arranging an Honour Guard for our ceremony. For male regular members, they would have been provided Musical Ride lances and Honour Guards, but for my wife and I, it was a challenge to have the same things. In the end, our Honour Guard consisted of two regular members who were friends of ours, and we had to go to the Mess at Headquarters to pull a lance off the wall. It was lovely, but I think it was more difficult than it would have been if one of us had been a man.

From 2006 to 2007, I was a recruiting mentor and what I really wanted to do was wear my red serge and march in the Toronto Pride parade. I submitted a request and was told that it wouldn't be approved because regular members were only permitted to wear red serge in Canada Day and Remembrance Day parades. I thought that was odd because I remembered seeing members march in the Saint Patrick's Day and Santa Claus parades. I really struggled with that. I didn't think it was right and the reason I was given seemed very wrong, so I found a way to work around it. Through my Recruiting connections, I arranged for Central Region Recruiting to set up a booth at the Toronto Pride parade. The RCMP didn't march, but we were there as a visible presence for the first time ever, and people went crazy over us. And we generated lots of applications from the community. I ruffled a few feathers, raised some eyebrows, and may have made a couple of enemies. The following year, we were approved to march in the Pride parade in our working uniforms. I still see it as a victory.

We have to show people that we're giving everyone the same rights and opportunities. I have no problem marching in the Pride parade as an average citizen, but when I march in my uniform, it sends a powerful, positive message.

Over the years, RCMP leaders who have held conservative or outright homophobic views have missed great public relations opportunities, not to mention untapped markets for potential recruits. Times have changed. Our proactive recruiters now recognize the value of accessing diverse communities. I was willing to push the envelope knowing I would bring criticism on myself. I had a tough go for a while but it was worth it.

What's the importance of allyship?

It's probably the single most important thing there is. I can jump up and down and say hey, look at me, I'm gay, I'm marginalized, treat me right! To some people, the more I shout about myself, the more I'm just an annoying person and that justifies why they don't like me in the first place. If someone else who has credibility and authority in the organization acts as an advocate, they're taken more seriously because they're seen as objective.

Allies aren't accused of having an axe to grind, of trying to prove something, or of having a vested interest. They're supporting the gender diverse community for the most honest and benevolent reason there is: because it's the right thing to do. Over the last few years, I've become an ally for the Trans community. As the tolerance meter on the inclusivity scale moves up, the Trans community still lags behind. They're still having a hard time being accepted even in inclusive workplaces. Recognizing that, I've tried to take on an advocacy role to advance their human rights. If I can do something to make someone else's life easier, I'll do it. How can you treat someone badly just for being who they are?

Do you think it's important for the RCMP to provide education and awareness about the LGBTQ2 community?

Absolutely. I hope we reach a day when it's no longer important for the RCMP to offer awareness training, but right now, it's vital.

I've just finished the LGBTQ2 awareness course and I thought it was fantastic. While it could benefit anyone, this course is aimed at people who are unsure how to relate to members of gender diverse communities. Among other things, it provides them with language that is more inclusive. The glossary of terms section will help many people. They'll be able to have conversations and handle situations that previously would have been difficult for them. Allies don't mind taking courses like this one because they're supportive and have already bought in. Sadly, there are still a lot of people in this organization who will be resistant no matter what. Even making a course like this one mandatory won't change some people's attitudes.

As an individual or an organization, it doesn't matter how good your intentions are, you're still going to make mistakes. When it happens, you correct yourself, apologize and move on. I believe the RCMP wants people to feel valued and respected and I think we're moving in the right direction now.

Jean Turner

A civilian member who works in London, Ontario. Jean is a woman who identifies as queer or lesbian.

What does the acronym LGBTQ2 mean to you?

For me, aside from the specific letters, the acronym represents a diverse group of individuals across the gender and sexuality spectrum. The community includes people from every race, culture and religion.

As an RCMP employee, what's been your experience as a member of the gender diverse community?

When I started for the RCMP in 2002, I was married to a man. In 2009, I came out at work as a lesbian and I felt completely supported, I still do. The only negative experience I had early on was a rumor mill situation. Just prior to coming out at work, one of my co-workers was spreading rumors that I was gay. I had a closed-door conversation with her and told her it was my personal information to share and that she shouldn't be speculating. We had a serious talk and she apologized. Other than that, no issues. I've always felt very safe and supported in the RCMP and I've become involved with many diversity committees. I'm currently the Chair of my division's LGBTQ2 employee network. I do a lot of advocacy work for the community in policing, specifically in Ontario. It's opened up a world of opportunities that I had no idea existed.

What's the importance of allyship?

Allies are extremely important. In the workplace, when a straight or cisgender colleague calls out someone else for bad behaviour or an inappropriate joke, it resonates powerfully because they are not perceived to have a personal agenda for being critical of that behaviour. They are seen as being motivated primarily by decency so their support is indispensable.

Do you think it's important for the RCMP to provide education and awareness about the LGBTQ2 community?

Yes, awareness and training are vital for the safety of both police officers and members of the community because it helps prevent hatred and violence. It's extremely important in policing. I recently finished the RCMP's 2SLGBTQ+ awareness course, which I thought was excellent. By the end, I was feeling quite emotional because I felt the course completely validated the professional and personal struggles that members of the 2SLGBTQ+ endure. The course dug deep into our lived experiences and topics like empathy, support and the importance of being an ally.

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