Having family accept his sexuality has been a challenge for New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Oriade Harbor.
“Part of this journey has been learning that my family has to transition with me,” said Harbor, while in Toronto on May 17 for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOTB) forum at the Toronto Police College. “Some of them have and some have not. Because it took me so long to come to terms with my own self-evolution and transformation, I can’t expect those that are closest to me and know me my whole life to suddenly make that switch. It’s just not me transitioning everyone around me. They are doing so with me and I have to be patient.”
Harbor and Christine Schulz, the Ottawa Police Service’s first Trans cop, were invited to speak at the event.
“A forum like this humanizes us and shows people that we do exist,” she said. “I have received a lot of support in my 11 years on the job, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been issues. For a lot of people, it’s the first time they have even met a Trans person.”
IDAHOTB aims to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBTQ rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBTQ rights work worldwide.
“This day is important because it demonstrates that we have mostly good people working for us,” said Schulz. “It is time for those good people to step forward and not just become the monolith behind blue and just be quiet when we see something.”
The day is celebrated in almost 120 countries, including Canada.
“When I think about this day, it speaks volumes that we have to have a day,” said Harbor, who grew up in Detroit and is assigned to NYPD’s management & planning division in Manhattan. “Around the world, people are still being assaulted and murdered because of their orientation and identity. Even outside my identity as a police officer, being a person of Trans experience and African descent means intersectionality is huge. I should not have to give up one or part of myself. All my identities should be able to exist in a world that’s just and free. This day is needed because we are not there yet.”
The event was organized by the Toronto Police Service’s LGBTQ-Internal Support Network.
“We all feel it really is important that we have an opportunity for Trans police officers who are our colleagues to talk about what their experiences are,” said Sgt. Henry Dyck. “Working in the Church and Wellesley Sts. area, one of the things that I have experienced is Trans people saying ‘you don’t represent me because we don’t see you in the police service.’ That is something that Toronto Police needs to work on. To get better at it, we need to be more inclusive when it comes to Trans people.”