Out in the Midwest: Examining Homophobia in the Police Force

Elizabeth Higgs, Western Illinois University

During the past decade there has been increasing gay and lesbian visibility in urban U.S. police forces. There is a tension between assimilation and discrimination in the work experiences recounted by lesbian and gay police officers. This paper includes a brief review of court cases focusing on discrimination and harassment inside U.S. police departments, an interdisciplinary literature review, and descriptions of occupational history interviews with lesbian and gay police officers in the Midwest. What kinds of legal cases have been brought, particularly in the Midwest, concerning the rights of gay and lesbian officers? How do the experiences of lesbian officers differ from those of gay male officers? What are some coping strategies employed by the gay and lesbian officers interviewed? To what degree are there promotion or pay differences between heterosexual and non-heterosexual officers in the Midwest? What makes some city forces less discriminatory than others as assessed by gay and lesbian officers? This research examines these questions to understand some of the professional challenges faced by these officers in the Midwest.

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Updated 05/20/2006