Senior Police Officer Greg Abbink had known since he was a child that he felt more like a boy than a girl. Unsure of how to describe himself as a teen, he decided he must be a lesbian; after all, he was attracted to girls. After graduating high school he got an associate degree in criminal justice, worked for a while as a corrections officer, and then joined the Army, where he served for four years. After discharge in 2004, he joined the Austin Police Department. In the time since Abbink had joined the force, he had become a continuing education instructor, teaching such courses as “Survival Spanish” to his fellow officers. Last year, Abbink came out as trans.
Abbink was granted leave to have top surgery, which he paid for from his retirement savings, and he began taking testosterone. In order to explain his transition, he composed a letter to some of his coworkers. In it, he wrote:
“I am more than happy to send any other information if you’d like. I pray that this doesn’t change our friendship as you all mean the world to me! As this transition will take a little while, I totally understand that it will be an adjustment for everyone. … I am always here for you guys! Don’t hesitate to talk to me about this or ask any questions!”
So far, Abbink says, his experience has been largely positive. He’s been “blown away by the response and support” he’s received.
Additionally, Abbink’s been in touch with San Francisco PD Officer Broderick Elton. Elton acts as the department’s transgender liaison, teaching a required class on trans sensitivity to cadets in the police academy. In San Francisco, openly trans officers are no longer novel. Sergeant Stephan Thorne, whom Elton succeeded as trans liaison, transitioned on the job in 1994, and created the class Elton now teaches.
Having officers who are both openly trans and advocates for trans rights helps a police department better serve its community.
There’s an additional factor: The number of trans people who are victims of violent crimes is disproportionately high (see Transgender Day of Remembrance), so it’s especially important that a police department make clear that it will take trans people’s complaints seriously and will treat them respectfully.
Abbink hopes to travel to San Francisco soon and meet with Elton, in order to develop a class for APD that focuses on trans issues. Abbink’s transition, and his willingness to answer questions about it, mean that for the time being, he’s the proof of APD’s commitment to trans inclusivity.