Simon Williamson: Kelvin Cochran does not belong in civil service

I applauded when Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed fired Atlanta’s fire chief; I jumped higher than the Colorado Rockies, did both the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers parts to a new Macarena of my own creation, and whooped like a Falcons fan would if ever given the opportunity.

It goes without saying that most people in the civil service don’t always want to enforce crappy laws in the name of Huckabee-esque legislators, and that the number of police, firefighters, paramedics, bureaucrats, form takers, DMV staffers, paper pushers, city planners and so on who have set out to deliberately fuck with anyone based on a demographic is likely smaller than generally assumed.

The legalities of the departure of fire chief Kelvin Cochran will be handled by a court of law, which will decide whether Cochran’s anti-gay book, cobbled together by his very own fingers, then spread around a public enterprise, should have resulted in his sacking. Even if the court finds in favor of Cochran, I hope the settlement is financial and he remains outside the civil service, which has pissed around so many groups for so long, including our LGBTQIA+ peers, that one less of his sort is as welcome as the end of this goddamn winter.

Granted, of course, that would be like taking a tablespoon of oil out of BP’s Gulf of Mexico. For hundreds of years the civil service has existed to regulate behavior that the government doesn’t like.

It is, for example, why many victims don’t report rape or sexual assault—aside from the hideous process of having to face their rapist in court, victims first have to hope that the police officers they encounter know what the hell they’re doing, and don’t initially blame the victim for wearing a short skirt, being drunk, or, you know, having a bodily orifice within 25 miles of a university.

It is why the number of black people arrested for the same shit white people do with impunity is so lopsided. Lopsided is the wrong word. It’s more like the length of the Downtown Connector versus the height of it.

It is why our people are utterly terrified by the repeated introduction of “religious freedom” bills in legislatures, giving the people who don’t like us, but work in jobs where we have to get close enough to smell their distaste, more power. A friend of mine was told to cough up $200 to change the name on his driver’s license because same-sex marriage is not recognized in Sam Olens’ Georgia. It is why we prepare for the worst when it comes to lining up to adopt children, or change custody, or change our documents to the correct gender, even where it is legal.

It is why many of our transgender brothers and sisters and gender nonconforming relatives have to change how they normally look when going through any process that requires photo identification. The city of Washington, DC was forced to cough up nearly $3 million in the late 1990s when EMTs refused to treat a dying car accident victim whose gender and sex weren’t as congruent as they would have liked.

The City of Atlanta proved last year that a gay bashing wasn’t high on its priority list. And if it weren’t for this newspaper, the case would have died like a track on Robin Thicke’s last album.

We are under no illusions that the government will always help everyone, especially out here in real America, where our lawns are mowed by hungry deer and we ride along “freedom” (untarred) roads, choosing from a selection of country music stations that dwarfs the number of roads on which the residents of Buckhead can get stuck in traffic.

Kelvin Cochran’s presence in any role in the Atlanta city government would not just be a reminder that the civil service might not love us. It would be an indication that the possibility of our bashings and murders going uninvestigated, our requests for services being locked away in bureaucratic wormholes, and yes, our fires being left to burn, is very, very real.