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We Went to a Convention for Gay Police Officers in Berlin

The image of the gay cop has been fetishized to death over the last few decades. Tom of Finland, Village People, George Michael, and so many others have done their darndest to cement the homo cop into the public psyche, but it's a safe bet that none of...

Photos by Grey Hutton

The image of the gay cop has been fetishized to death over the last few decades. Tom of Finland, Village People, George Michael, and so many others have done their darndest to cement the homo cop—complete with oiled-up baton and leather pants—into the public psyche. But it's a safe bet that none of those guys ever went to one of the European Gay Police Association's conferences.


The association, founded in 2004, has so far held seven conferences in a number of different European cities. Last week the most recent one took place in Berlin, with more than 200 cops from 13 countries in attendance. Over the course of three days the talks and seminars focused largely on topics like hate crime in Germany and the integration of homosexuals into public service.

Police officers are largely anonymous figures. In matching uniforms, complete with the occasional helmet covering their faces, losing one's identity in order to better uphold the law seems like part of the job description. But a trip to this gay cop convention allowed a glimpse into the private lives of these men and women.

We spoke to some of the friendly faces we met while there.

Carly Andrews, England

VICE: What is being a gay policewoman in the UK like?
Carly Andrews: I have been in the force for about six years, but I think the big gay-rights groups had done most of the work before I started working for the police. There was a time where it was frowned upon to talk about sexual orientation in the force, but they've been fighting really hard for gay rights for the last 30 to 40 years and achieved a lot. Have you always been accepted by your colleagues?
When I started working with the Surrey Police Department, I was welcomed with open arms. They even encouraged me to go to conferences like this one, so that I have the chance to educate myself about gay rights and support other gays within the force. Had you already "come out" before joining the force?
Before I started working with the police, I had a job in public administration, and I can remember someone making a homophobic joke on my first day. From that day on, it was clear to me that no one ought to know that I had a girlfriend. I felt terrible that I didn´t speak up for myself. When I started with the police, I wanted to treat this matter differently. I wanted to deal with it better and without secrecy about my partner. I wanted to refer to her as my girlfriend. How do you react if you witness a hate crime? Is this something that affects you more than your heterosexual colleagues?
Of course all the things you can relate to can and will affect you a certain way. For example if a lesbian woman is being verbally insulted on the street, I can relate to that. I also experience things like this, but I hardly ever report it, which I actually should. You just get used to negative comments.


Josef Hosp, Austria

VICE: What is being a gay police officer in Austria like?
Josef Hosp: I worked for Customs for 24 years before I started with the police. Since 1991, I have been out as a gay man, and I have experienced a lot of bullying ever since. People tried to talk negatively about the way I live my life or even oppress me because of that, but I have always made sure to keep going, and now I hold an executive position. For my younger colleagues, the situation has definitely improved. It used to be much worse. When did you start?
I started in 1981 with Customs and came out in 1984. I wanted to make a statement with my coming out. What was that like?
Pretty bad. My outing actually took place at a seminar class. The day after, I was called into the organizers' office. They were very adamant about me not speaking about homosexual matters within the seminar. They said that if I continued doing so they couldn't guarantee that I would pass the classes. Next, my roommate decided to move out of the room we shared, because he was too worried about him being thought of as gay. After the seminar I went back to my department, where a bunch of my colleagues decided not to go out in the field with me anymore. I then got a "promotion," but it only entailed working from my desk. I am a person who has always loved to be outside and in contact with people, so I was pretty disappointed. How do you react to hate crimes and homophobic attacks?
My perception is definitely different from that of heterosexuals. I have experienced stuff like that myself. I was held at gunpoint once. When you were out privately?
Yeah, I was out as a gay man. I think this is the reason why I have a personal approach to things like that. Every form of abuse hurts, even if it's just verbal and you don't show it.


T. & B., Belgium

VICE: What's life like for a gay police officer in Belgium?
T: I've never had any kind of problems with it. All my colleagues were very supportive when I came out. They were very interested in what it's like to live your life as a gay man and wanted to know a lot of details—especially the women. But yeah, they were mostly very curious and supportive. B: I also haven't had any problems. It's accepted, but it shouldn't be shown too publicly. Are you guys partners?
T: No, we are not. We work in different units and have different bosses. Were you openly gay before you joined the force?
B: I came out after I joined. Some of my colleagues had been talking about it already. Raising questions like "Is he gay, or is he straight?" But when I had the courage to say it out loud it wasn't, a problem at all. T: I was already out when I was in police training. I have never been the person who seeks attention by saying, "Hey, here I am, and I'm gay!" I just did my thing, and after a couple of weeks some of my colleagues came up to me and asked whether I was gay. I thought, They've manned up and had the balls to ask me, so I'll give them an honest answer. B: To be honest, I was a little bit scared before I went into the process of being admitted to police school. I did wonder whether homosexuality and policing could go together. Looking back, my worries turned out to be unnecessary.

Ann Griessbach-Baerns, Germany

VICE: What is being a lesbian and a cop in Berlin like?
Ann Griessbach-Baerns: I haven't had any kind of problems coming out. It wasn't a problem for my colleagues, either. How did you come out in front of your colleagues?
I started police training when I was 16. That was the age where you are not exactly sure about it—well, you are, actually, but you don't walk around telling everyone. You can start police training at 16?
Yeah. So I basically grew into both, I guess. The older you get, the more openly and normally you talk about it. And this works out well?
It does. I'm not in the minority. We have a lot of gay people in our department. If we're talking about a minority, the only thing I can say is that we have almost outnumbered heterosexuals. Almost half of the department is gay! Where is your department?
I am an instructor at the State Police School. How do you react to homophobic violence? Do you think you experience it differently from a heterosexual colleague?
I wouldn't say so. But I do think that because of my background I can spot and question some criminal acts better or in a different way. I can raise awareness among colleagues in the department and also within the State Police School. I can show whether the crime has a homophobic background or not. How do you assess the homophobic violence in Berlin in general?
I do know the statistics, but you want me to answer the question from a private angle… Of course I think that people have to be educated about it a lot more than they are currently. The victims should be encouraged to file a report if they experience any form of homophobic abuse. So I definitely think that homophobic violence in Berlin is still a hot topic.

Update 15/8/16: A Q&A was removed from this feature upon the request of the interviewee.