Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I was invited to a ceremony at a middle school in a city neighborhood that has seen its share of gun violence.

There were police officers in dress uniforms, cadets handing out programs and proud families clutching digital cameras. In the front row of the tiny auditorium, little boys in polo shirts and khaki pants sat next to their mothers while television cameras set up in the back.

I was invited to attend the pining ceremony for a Sergeant Detective who had been promoted to Deputy Superintendent.

He is unique in the oldest police force in the country for a variety of reasons.

He is an African-American male with a very high rank in a police department in a city not exactly known for easy race relations.

He is openly gay.

His name is Norm.

Of the three, I think the last one is the most difficult.

I arrived in the auditorium 15 minutes before the ceremony. Seven other officers were also being pinned so the room was filling up. But there was a group of men in the middle in various outfits. Some had on street uniforms, others were in street clothes. But they all had guns and badges. They all were fit, even large chested, and looked like they could take down a suspect in seconds.

So when a new fellow yelled a greeting from the aisle there was none of the standard, guttural "hey" with a stilted hand shake like I saw else where in the room.

No, it was full-on hugs. The newcomers were greeted with "Hey there!" with a tad bit of, yes, swish. Outfits were complimented. Weights, hair, and yes, shoes were commended. These men were out of the closet, in the force and proud that one of theirs was recognized for his hard work on behalf of the citizens of his city.

When the new Deputy Superintendent was pinned by his mother with the Mayor and Commissioner of Police watching, he got the loudest cheers of all. Those men were beaming. People around us smiled. There were hearty applause from the other officers in the room. This was a reason to be proud.

And I was.


Jenn in Holland said...

Allison- I took absolute chills reading this just now. What a gorgeous piece and what an experience for you to share in. I am so deeply impressed with that event and I feel proud too. I feel proud that in some small ways we are opening our minds and embracing the diversity of our humanity. This piece makes me feel proud, and it gives me hope. It really can be a wonderful world! Congratultions to Norm! Way to go you. Thanks for sharing such a brilliant glimpse at love and acceptance with us.

Jami said...

Congratulations to Norm! Wow. If I were a gay black cop, I know I'd sure struggle with the irony of that name. Kudos, hugs and love to him and all his fellow officers and to you, too!

Jen said...

This is a very, very cool scene for all kinds of reasons. Thank God somewhere in this country there's a modicum of tolerance these days. And bravo for your friend Norm and for his buddies!

Flower Child said...

Yay for Norm! Pinning ceremonies are fun. And even more so when your friends all show up to support you.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Rock on, Norm!

Gunfighter said...

Here is what is has come to, my friend.

I read your post and thought to myself: "so what?"

Before you start thinking of ways to tell me our friendship is over, let me tell you why I thought that.

Despite the macho swagger of most of my fellow officers, we mostly don't care who is gay. Sure, people talk, but I have NEVER heard anyone say anything that would be more inappropriate about a gay cop than the use of the word "fag" or "queer". Now, I don't use these words, myself. I use them no more than I would the word "nigger". In my book, all of these words are perjorative, whether people in various communities use them towards each other or not.

On top of all of that, I am used to seeing non-white police officers promoted to high rank in cities/towns/counties that are predominantly white... and I'm not talking about liberal white-guilt bastions, either.

In this case, as much as I congratulate Norm (my own brother's name is Herman, who has it worse?), I am glad that this is becoming less and less of a big deal.

Good on you, Norm!

"The times, they are a-changin'!"

Oh... and let me tell you, There are some gay officers that I know that I would be happy to have back me up in a fight before some of the straight guys/girls.

soccer mom in denial said...

I guess your employer GF is much more enlightened than our city police force. Norm was the first "liaison" cop to the gay community and has risen through the ranks. It's because of him that you have the luxery of writing "so what"?

And I think to Norm and his colleagues, it was a very special so what. To be the highest ranking opening gay man? I think that is a big what.

Gunfighter said...

I wasn't being dismissive, Allison.

soccer mom in denial said...

Not dimisive GF. Just not sensitive that being a person in his mid-40's went through things I can't imagine (maybe you can) for a career he loves.

We have the benefit of some "so what" today in our large urban areas. He didn't as a young man starting his job. That's what made yesterday so full of pride. Now let's go find some out gay black male police officers in the rural south or southwest!

chelle said...

What a cool thing to be a part of. I so enjoy reading the underdog stories of triumph!

How awesome is it that his Mom pinned him (Canadian no idea what pinning really is ... sounds cool though!)

Mr. SMID said...

My two cents for what its worth:

1. Norm is a Boston name. It's like Beauregard in Missisippi, Hank in Wyoming. Moonbeam in California. If your name is Norm, you belong (in a bar) in Boston.

2. Although I have never met him, I can tell you that Norm is braver than me. I know there were/are times in my life when I acted a certain way (mostly in business situations) because I thought it would be to my advantage. What I ultimately learned, and what i imagine is Norm's credo, is that you have to be true to yourself, good or bad. Yesterday, for Norm, was a good day.

Cheers! (no pun intended)

Jenn in Holland said...

Love the pun MR. SMID. It was fitting after the hahahaha that erupted from the line that any guy named Norm belongs in a bar in Boston.
I just have to back up Allison here and say that this is an absolute WHAT moment. Perhaps there are places which are more progressive than my end of the country, and I am glad to hear GF refer to such attitudes. I don't however think they are prevelant and in any way the "norm" (sorry I can't think of a better term than this) I feel strongly that we need to celebrate every one of these moments in society loudly and proudly. How else will we pass the message that THIS is how it should be. I am thinking of Jami's recent post about Crystal, the prom queen as well. And I am just thinking how proud I am to have friends such as this is the blogging world who are displaying this kind of news and shouting it out loud. It really is something to be proud of for all of us.
And once again, Allison, I have to say, I took chills in the re-reading of this post. I think it's just perfect.

Alex Elliot said...

Congratulations to Norm! How wonderful.

Brillig said...

Congrats to Norm, and congrats to you for winning the perfect post award for this post!

Rebecca said...

Yay for Norm (I love his name) - and big congrats on the award!

Leslie said...

This is truly deserving of a Perfect Post award! I'm glad to have found your blog.