The New York Fire Department has faced criticism for its lack of diversity, but this week it emerged that one of New York’s Bravest is breaking barriers by simply being open about who she is: the city’s first openly trans firefighter.
Brooke, last name withheld for privacy reasons, is a third-generation firefighter and her father still works in the department. Gender assigned male at birth, Brooke went through the difficult selection process to earn a place with the NYFD and now she’s quietly making history.
…Metrotech headquarters, where she is currently assigned, the famously macho department — almost 100 percent male with only 32 women on the job — is taking her transition in stride.
The firefighter initially was assigned to Ladder 172/Engine 330 in Bensonhurst, according to department sources, before taking a desk job at FDNY headquarters where she works scheduling appointments for recruits.
She confirmed her transition to The Post last week.
“I am appreciative of the support that the FDNY has given me during this time in my life. However, it is my expressed wish that the details of my personal and professional life remain private,” she said in a written statement.
The department has had to fend off criticism in recent years that its selection process favors white males with very few female and minority firefighters being recruited.
Yet while Brooke has reportedly had to deal with a few insensitive comments, she says most in the department have been supportive.
The FDNY already has a few openly gay and lesbian firefighters but Brooke is believed to be the first openly trans firefighter in NYC.
LGBT rights groups have been quick to praise both Brooke and her coworkers.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Transgender Civil Rights project lauded the news as progress.
“Being transgender is just one part of who a person is and we are encouraged to hear her coworkers realize she is the same person and can be true to herself at work,” said Lisa Mottet, a transgender rights attorney at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
While New York does have a trans-inclusive workplace nondiscrimination policy it is enforced through executive order and therefore isn’t secure. Unfortunately the state’s Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) continues to flounder in the state Legislature where it has remained for the past few years.
GENDA would add to New York’s existing Human Rights Law by banning discrimination based on gender identity and expression throughout the state. Current law wards against discrimination in areas like employment, housing, public accommodations, and education when it comes to a person’s age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, and disability among several other classifications. It does not, however, explicitly cover trans people. You can read more GENDA here.
There are hints that Gov. Cuomo may be willing to put pressure on the Legislature to pass GENDA during the next legislative session, but any action will most likely first require a significant and vocal campaign from LGBT rights groups like we saw from the Human Rights Campaign over marriage equality.
Until then we are reminded of firefighter Brooke’s bravery in choosing to be open about her identity at a time when she still risks the threat of severe prejudice and discrimination.