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Members of the new ELN, The New Genderation, including Taylor Swan, third from right, and Senior Sergeant Rhona Stace, back centre in uniform.

Taylor Swan wanted to be a police officer when he was little (or an astronaut but he says donning the blue uniform seemed more achievable).

While that didn’t happen, the Emergency Communication Centre dispatcher is helping make Aotearoa and Police a safer place for vulnerable members of the community.

The 49-year-old Cantabrian will mark 25 years with Police in July. He has been a diversity liaison officer (DLO) for the past three years and was integral in establishing an employee-led network (ELN) for rainbow members of Police, The Next Genderation, which launched in mid-February.

While it is still in its infancy, Taylor says, The Next Genderation already has some lofty goals.

“We are building our strategy, which will be based around safety and inclusion. We are also working with Police IT, with the support and push from Assistant Commissioner Chris De Wattignar, to change QIDs for members who have transitioned while in Police. This may seem like a small achievement but this has been a long painful wait for some members and has only just gained real traction because of the ELN… this will benefit many others who perhaps were married when they entered Police.”

The Next Genderation will also be part of the consultation process when a “transitioning at work” guide is created for Police. “There have also been a number of other wins with the group making small changes through actively educating our people.

“This is an internal network but, in time, the hope is that we will make change that will positively impact our gender diverse communities. We need to have our own backyard in order first.”

Not all sunshine and rainbows

When Taylor began his career in 1998, there were only a handful of staff who were open about their rainbow allegiance. “[Then], there was no executive or high-tiered formal acknowledgment of queer members in Police. Informally, it was ignored, not spoken about and, at times, refuted.”

As more rainbow staff were recruited, things gradually improved. Five years ago, evidence of that change in attitude prevented Taylor from ending his Police career. He had made the decision to physically transition from a female to male but he felt the only way he could do that safely was to quit his job and move cities. After falling into a constant state of despair, he sought out his supervisors to tell them why he was resigning. They were adamant they wouldn’t let him leave and asked Taylor what they could do to support him as he transitioned.

While it wasn’t all smooth sailing, Taylor says overall he was supported and he, his colleagues and his managers learnt a lot.

Senior Sergeant Rhona Stace also transitioned (from male to female) while working for Police. “What I’ve been able to do in Police was unthinkable when I joined 28 years ago. We know that, previously, we simply lost staff who either left Police to transition or struggled to see a way forward, which even led to some taking their own lives. Both Police and I have evolved since then.

“We still have a way to go, but what Police is pursuing organisation-wide now is a safe workplace where everyone can bring their whole selves to work.”

Changing times

Taylor agrees: “Real change and acceptance of diversity within the police has been most visible in the last few years.”

Major factors in that transformation have included executive support, the establishment of two fulltime roles dedicated to inclusion, implementation of Rainbow 101 training, the establishment of The Next Genderation and the 120-strong DLO network.

Rhona, who is the senior prevention partnerships adviser – inclusion, says the work of the DLOs has been of “incalculable value” to Police “and is the sole reason we are in as good a shape as we are”.

Taylor says high visibility inside and outside Police is a key part of being a DLO. “We police better when the diversity of our staff reflects the diversity within our community. Shared social identities make engagement easier and increases trust and confidence. We show up at events, attend community hui, we go wherever there is an opportunity for engagement, but also being visible within the organisation so that, eventually, we don’t have to work for inclusion, it becomes the norm.”

Inclusiveness 101

Aiding in that journey to normality was the launch in January of Police’s online rainbow community inclusion training, or Rainbow 101.

The policing-specific module covers inclusive language, pronouns, terminology and a brief overview of rainbow communities. There is also a section for frontline staff on statement-taking, recording of names and genders, and on same-sex relationships. Just under 10% of all Police employees have completed the voluntary module, Rhona says. “Our goal is 14,000 of our people completing it.

“[Those who have completed it] have reported finding it very accessible, engaging and useful… It is long overdue, addresses a lot of missing knowledge and offers practical solutions. I highly recommend it, but then I’m biased – I’m in it (and some say it’s worth a look just for that).”

Taylor is calling on supervisors to encourage their staff to sit the module. “It will be valuable to each member at some point.

“A survey was conducted across the United States in 2021 called the Trevor Project. It indicated that transgender and non-binary youth who reported having their pronouns respected were 50% less likely to attempt suicide,” he says.

“Transgender and non-binary youth are the highest risk group for suicide (26% of transgender and gender diverse youth in New Zealand attempted suicide in 2021, according to research conducted at Auckland and Waikato universities). These are scary statistics, so having an understanding of rainbow issues and using correct language/pronouns could literally save a life.”


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