The Atlanta Police Department has recently undertaken serious training on LGBT issues with LGBT liaison officers Patricia Powell and Brian Sharp teaching the classes.
At a recent LGBT citizen advisory group meeting, Officer Sharp said training of the entire command staff has taken place and now training of officers and citizen employees will take place through May.
The APD made available the documents and Power Point presentation being used to train officers. Special emphasis is paid to the fact that LGBT people have often faced discrimination and harassment from police in the past. The Stonewall riots are also explained in the training as part of the queer community fighting back against police harassment and as the spark the started the modern gay rights movement.
And while most of the education plan seems fairly proper and empathetic toward the LGBT community, we couldn’t help but be struck that in the definition section of the Power Point presentation, where such words as “sexual orientation” and “transgender” are accurate, the police continue to want to use the word “transvestite.”
According to the APD documents that are being used to train officers about the LGBT community, a “transvestite” is: “Someone who dresses in clothing generally identified with the opposite gender/sex. While the terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘transvestite’ have been used synonymously, they are in fact signify two different groups. The majority of transvestites are heterosexual males who derive pleasure from dressing in ‘women’s clothing’. (The preferred term is ‘cross-dresser,’ but the term ‘transvestite’ is still used in a positive sense in England.)”
However, "transvestite" is not a word that is accepted in the LGBT community. Rather than teaching police officers that the word is positive in England, the APD should specifically state that "transvestite" is considered highly offensive here, so that cops will not use it and inadvertently offend citizens.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, “transvestite” is a derogatory term and “cross dresser” is the correct terminology. Of course, a cross dresser is completely different than a transgender person as well.
The APD defines “transgender” as: “A general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies that diverge from the normative gender role (woman or man) commonly, but not always assigned at birth, as well as gender roles traditionally held by society. Transgender is also the state of one’s gender identity not matching one's assigned sex. “
That is a generally good definition.
But to include “transvestite,” however, as a term to explain people in the LGBT community is not accepted anymore, nor has it been for many years. The APD’s efforts to reach out to the LGBT community and to provide this training are to be commended, but it appears that there is still more that needs be to understood.