In the film “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” a pivotal scene involves Arwen confronting the dreaded Witch King. During their fight, the Witch King declares “No man can kill me.” Arwen responds with the line “I am no Man” before dispatching the Witch King by stabbing him in the face.
It took me years into adulthood to fully realize that I was nonbinary, that I could say, at least in a sense, that I was “no man”. Witch Kings beware!
Given the history between police and the queer community, it was not an easy decision on my part to pursue a career in law enforcement. I know about the Stonewall Riots and the police harassment that preceded them.
Recently, I was accepted into the law enforcement program here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It wasn’t easy, in part due to having to pass a psychological exam that shockingly enough, included very specific questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.
One would think that with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity having been rendered illegal in the state of Minnesota in the early 90s, that such questions would never come up when applying for a job or to an academic program. Alas, one would be mistaken in making that presumption.
Objections to psych exams for police officers asking questions about sexual orientation go back a long ways. In 1988, Eric Rofes, the then director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in West Hollywood, said to the Los Angeles Times “it is outrageous in 1988 that it is still on the books,” referring to the inclusion of questions regarding sexual orientation being asked of police recruits. (Controversial Test for Police May Be Revised, Los Angeles Times, 3/10/1988)
It has been decades since the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM and gender identity disorder is no longer included in current editions.
Objections by the LGBTQ community to our identities being seen as a mental illness, predate Stonewall even.
When the then president of the Mattachine Society, (an early national gay rights org) Frank Kameny visited MSU Mankato in May of 1969, he is described in The Reporter as arguing that “homosexuality” is not a psychological problem, but a sociological one caused by homophobia. (Majority of Homosexuals Untroubled, says Kameny, The Reporter, 5/7/1969)
I have faced worse forms of discrimination than being asked about my gender identity and sexuality on a psych exam. But I can not think of another example of one so institutionally and systemically ingrained.
When I raised concerns about being asked what I felt were inappropriate and invasive questions about gender identity and sexuality, I was informed by the psychiatrist that the test I had been given, the Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory known as the MMPI was “the gold standard” for police psych exams.
As it were, the United States abandoned the gold standard in 1971. Given the need for police departments to diversify their ranks, perhaps the practice of explicitly asking police applicants unnecessary questions about their gender and sexuality should be abandoned as well.
Write to Jeremy Redlien at Jeremy.Redlien@mnsu.edu