Why it still matters for LGBTQ people to publicly affirm who we areBottom Highlights, Commentary, Latest Issue Thursday, October 12th, 2017
Commentary: Guest Commentary
“Why do you have to bring up the LGBT thing?”
“Marriage equality is the law of the land, now what else do you want?”
“Be careful about the ‘gay thing’ with your campaign. It can hurt you.”
These are just some of the comments I’ve received since I entered the race for San Diego County Sheriff. I haven’t made my sexual orientation a huge part of the campaign because it’s not a qualification for elected office. My campaign is focused on bringing an outdated Sheriff’s Department into the 21st century and making it transparent, accountable and smarter on crime. However, I have shared my personal story a few times and have received incredible support from the community.
In light of recent progress achieved by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, many think a person’s sexual orientation should no longer matter. Some question public officials, pro athletes, entertainers and others as to why they share their sexual orientation. Does it really matter? Yes. It does matter.
The many affirmative messages I have received tell me that it matters a lot. Sharing that I am a gay male running for Sheriff has given inspiration to those with their own personal challenges. Some have confided in me that it has helped them on their journey of coming out. I hope that my openness about my sexual orientation will positively influence LGBTQ young people, especially those feeling alone or considering suicide. I’ve sat with LGBTQ young people who have told me they’ve never considered a career in law enforcement. They didn’t think that they could be gay and be a police officer. That’s why when I’m asked about my sexual orientation, I unhesitatingly say “I am gay and here’s why that matters.”
I’ve been in law enforcement for 34 years. Thirty-two of those with the Sheriff’s Department. We have a long way to go battling homophobia and transphobia. I know deputies who are still not comfortable coming out at work because they believe it would be detrimental to their career. When I first came out at work – 20 years ago – many of my colleagues, some of whom were friends, turned their backs on me. I heard gay slurs and attempts to diminish me.
For the transgender community, the situation is even worse. We have no policy to support the transitioning process for transgender deputies. Equally dismaying is that the current sheriff established a policy for transgender arrestees only after a degrading and humiliating encounter between a transgender inmate and jail deputies. The department still lacks effective support for deputies in the field when working with the transgender community. I firmly believe that residents should do more than expect to be treated equally under the law, since we can all be treated horribly equally. They should expect, and we in law enforcement must commit to treating all individuals with dignity and respect, no matter their differences. Ensuring fairness and guaranteeing individuals’ constitutional rights builds trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve while increasing public safety.
We need change in the criminal justice system here in San Diego, starting with the Sheriff’s Department. I’m talking about the Sheriff’s failure to address the increase in violent crimes and sexual violence in San Diego, the appalling absence of diversity in the Sheriff’s Department, the failure to address the opioid drug crisis with any coherent strategies, the refusal to test the backlog of rape kits, the wasting of millions of taxpayers dollars on settlements regarding record rates of suicides in our jails, the reluctance to equip and train all Deputies on body worn cameras, the lack of partnering with social services to stop the criminalization of addiction, mental illness and homelessness. It goes on and on.
Electing qualified members of the LGBTQ community to public office is important because homophobia and transphobia still exist. In the 34 years I have served in law enforcement, being gay has informed both the way I have treated my co-workers and the way I have approached others. Being gay has made me more resilient, more accepting, more compassionate, more cognizant of the worth that can be found in everyone I encounter. So yes, being gay matters because it’s a strength and it’s a part of who I am.
Dave Myers is a candidate for San Diego County Sheriff. Dave was born and raised in San Diego and currently lives in La Mesa with his partner of 14 years.
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