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August 31, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A new transgender sensitivity video from the Department of Justice (DOJ) instructs police officers on how to deal with complaints about men using women’s restrooms and instructs them to ask people if they’d rather be called “sir” or “ma’am.”

“When someone’s name or gender on a license is different from what you expect, how do you react?” Cpl. Evan Baxter asks in the video. “Is this person committing identity theft? Are they a fugitive? Possibly they’re just transgender.”

The DOJ’s Community Relations Service made the training video titled “Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community” in consultation with LGBT advocacy groups. The video depicts three scenarios in which law enforcement might come in contact with the “transgender community.”

In the first scenario, a police officer asks a man dressed as a woman for his license and registration after pulling him over for a taillight issue. The police officer asks the driver, “Do you prefer if I call you ma’am or sir?”

“I don’t have to be in the room with you to know what probably just happened,” Sgt. Brett Parson says when the scenario has ended. “Somebody just snickered, laughed, or made a joke. Trust me, I know. I’m a cop, too. As police officers, we use humor to deal with things that make us uncomfortable or afraid. We’re human — and we know we mean no harm. It’s our way of coping. But we have to admit it: to outsiders, it’s perceived as unprofessional and disrespectful. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If someone feels disrespected, they’re less likely to trust us or cooperate.”

In the second scenario, a police officer privately reprimands her co-worker for sneering at an assault victim and calling him “sir” instead of “ma’am.” The offending officer apologizes and corrects the situation by asking the victim how he’d like to be addressed.

In the third scenario, a young woman holding a baby calls the police to report that she saw a man going into the women’s restroom. The individual, who is wearing makeup and appears to be quite feminine, explains to the officer, “I’m a woman.”

“Probably a misunderstanding,” the officer apologizes.

‘Not just a man with a wig’

“There’s a perception among many transgender people that police won’t take crime against them seriously — that they’ll actually blame the victim for looking or dressing or being the way they are,” Parson said. “And in recent surveys, some transgender people have reported that they have been assaulted by police officers. Many transgender women, if they’re on the street at night, actually fear getting stopped for something we call ‘walking while trans.’ The assumption by officers is that they’re soliciting [sex], but they might just be hanging out or waiting for a ride. Just being transgender isn’t a reason to suspect a crime. … There’s an enormous need to repair this trust.”

“So many women and people in the transgender community just see law enforcement as a non-ally,” Debbie McMillan of the Women’s Collective explains. “I think the police need to have an understanding of what it means to be transgender. … I am not just a man with a wig.”

Parson instructed viewers on the proper distinctions between “assigned sex,” “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity.”

“We need to take a closer look at three basic terms and the distinct differences between how we define them,” Parson said.

“Assigned sex,” which is “also known as birth sex … refers to the biological or physiological designation as male or female at birth, usually based on anatomy,” he said. “Every person has an internal, psychological gender identity — a sense of who they feel they are in terms of gender, even if it’s not consistent with their assigned sex.”

This is “best viewed as a broad spectrum” with “masculine male at one end and feminine female at the other end,” Parson said.

“Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community” does not make reference to or acknowledge “gender non-binary,” “genderqueer,” or “two-spirit” people.   

The video also instructs law enforcement to use the word “transgender” instead of “trans.”

“While it may be acceptable to some, the safest term to use is the entire word transgender,” Parson said. “When in doubt, it’s always best to ask an individual what their preference is. Just simply ask, ‘How would you like to be addressed?’ Using the correct or preferred pronouns demonstrates respect and lets the individual know that you’re knowledge about their community, which is both reassuring and shows you’re a true professional.”


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