Sgt. Jessica Hawkins has been a police officer for 22 years. She’s served all over the country -- in rural areas, the mountains, and Washington, D.C., for the past 16 years. She told NBC Out that she was never more scared than when she came out as transgender to her work colleagues after transitioning in 2014.
“At one point, I wanted to turn around and go home and just call in. I was like, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t.’ I was petrified,” Hawkins said.
But as she walked into her department’s office, her peers lined the hallways to show their support for her. At the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, Hawkins has found a niche as the head of the LGBT unit.
“It’s definitely relaxed the tensions between the transgender community and the police department, just because now I know what it’s like to be looked at differently and to be treated differently,” she said.
Hawkins educates her co-workers on how to engage the LGBTQ community, advising them to ask people for their preferred pronouns and show other signs of respect. Based on civilian feedback, Hawkins feels like she’s making a difference, but she still understands “where the fear comes from” for trans citizens who are wary of persecution based on their identity.
“If the community doesn’t trust the police officers, any part of the community, we have a problem,” Hawkins added.