Brooke Guinan is someone you'd probably think of as brave because of her position: she's a FDNY firefighter. Others are praising her bravery for something else: she's the department's only transgender firefighter, and one of its only 41 women firefighters citywide on a force of over 10,000.
It'd be an understatement to say the Big Apple's fire department has a diversity problem, but it appears to be trying to shed that image. Brooke Guinan is a third-generation New York firefighter, but given her gender identity and general femininity, she wasn't sure that the department was the place for her, according to an exclusive feature by the New York Daily News.
There's such a pervasive feeling in the general attitude of society that firefighting is a job for straight men...Most queer people think that being a firefighter, a cop, or having a government job is unattainable. What a lot don't realise is you can do it.
It's hard to say how hard the FDNY is trying to change its hiring practices, but in addition to being fully supportive of Guinan during her transition, the position it found for her during the process was directly related to this goal. The department offered her a desk position at headquarters working in recruitment. In addition to working as an active firefighter in Astoria, she does recruitment and outreach for the department. As one of the few women firefighters, one of the fewer queer firefighters, and the only transgender firefighter she offers representation that the city has in abundance yet lacks in its agencies.
Accordingly, Guinan is using her unique status to join the "So Gay, So What?" campaign from the Vocal Organisation for International Courage and Equality or V.O.I.C.E. She says she participated in the campaign to raise awareness of the high rates of homelessness and unemployment amongst the transgender population. Her boss, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, welcomed her participation in the campaign.
We're very proud of Firefighter Guinan's participation in this important campaign.
Unsurprisingly the Daily News is reporting that more conservative elements in the city have complained, but reactions seem to generally be positive and supportive.
It's certainly true that in a diverse city, having a major agency and community force like the fire department which is almost entirely male, cisgender, straight, and white often does not inspire confidence. Hopefully, Guinan can work with firefighters from other marginalised communities to help recruit those who would more accurately reflect the city as a whole.
Images via V.O.I.C.E/New York Daily News.