Officer Megan Woods has been working with the 19th District police department since 2014, and now she is additionally serving and protecting as the district's LGBTQ liaison officer, having been in the role since last October.
"It's really exciting for me because I'm part of the community that's why I decided to go to the 19th District," said Woods, who identifies as a bisexual trans woman. "So I'm very passionate about it, especially being trans. ... I have a personal stake in it. So, I get to reach out to the community. I have an opportunity to do things that I wouldn't be able to do if I was just in a patrol car, so I kind of get to reach out and touch people that actually need more help that usually go unnoticed."
Born and raised in Cicero, Woods went to high school at Morton West in North Riverside. After high school, Woods joined the Marines. Within months of separating from the military, in 2003, she went straight into the police department to be an officer.
Looking back, she explained, she picked what is traditionally viewed as a masculine career in order to hide who she felt she was.
"My parents are my biggest supporters and it took me a really long time to realize that my family loves me no matter what and a lot of people don't get that and that's why I like to reach out to them," said Woods.
Around 2014, Woods began her transition, saying there just came a point where she "couldn't live anymore hiding that and I had to be myself."
"I never really had anyone that I could look up to and so I want to be looked up to, but I want people to know that it's okay to be yourself, to be trans," said Woods in terms of serving as a role model for other trans people, something that she did not have at a certain time in her life. "You don't have to hide from anyone. So, I love sharing my story, so people know 'Hey, I have a voice.' I believe representation is important.
Once she decided to take this journey, she got a good therapist.
"We have Weiss [Memorial] Hospital, which has the Center for Gender Confirmation in it, and that's where I got my gender confirmation surgery. ... They don't have those kind of resources in other places, and Chicago has so many resources for our community."
Woods is also a parent to two daughters, 13 and 8.
Outside of keeping the community and her children safe, Woods is an artist. In particular, she draws and designs tattoos for friends and loves it as an artform. She shared that she has a lot of tattoos from around the world, calling it a great collection of artwork from different places and different artists.
"As a child, my father worked in a tattoo shop and I kind of grew up around that and just growing up, my whole life, I was fascinated by it in all forms," said Woods.
She added she is also attracted to graffiti art and sews as a hobby, which she learned from necessity. One of her biggest thrills is going to thrift stores and tailoring items to fit her specifically.
The liaison job is unique as it is a new position, and not every district has one. When it comes to Woods' LGBTQ liaison efforts, she is looking out for people who experience a crime outside the police department and in the community that need to feel safe within an LGBTQ-friendly space due to feeling judged or threatened.
Community members, she explained, can reach out to the Office of Community Policing if they're afraid to report something that happened to them. Instead of reporting to a police officer, they can report directly to Woods as the LGBTQ liaison officer and she can take a report for a more comfortable experience.
"I get to actually go out and try to help people who normally wouldn't call the police because they're afraid," Woods explained of her position as LGBTQ liaison officer for the 19th District police department. "That's huge for me because the LGBTQ community is marginalized, especially the trans community. It's very underserved and a lot of people don't know that they need a lot of resources. They don't even know that themselves that [resources] are available and I get to seek those people out and try to help them."
Woods was also asked about the controversial security matter involving Center on Halsted, which is in her district. [On Jan. 22, the Center released a statement saying it is replacing Walsh Security, which faced charges of racism, with Quantum Security.] She initially said, "I really have no comment on what security company they go with. If the community put pressure on the Center on Halsted to change security companies and they did, then that's all there is to it." However, after reading Windy City Times' article on the Center's security issues and change, Woods stated, "I just feel like this neighborhood is a place of refuge for all LGBTQ people and I hate the idea that anyone would feel or was made to feel unwelcome for any reason. ... It's sad to see that there was a racial component involved. I wish that wasn't the case."
For more information on the Chicago Police Department's Office of Community Policing, visit home.chicagopolice.org/office-of-community-policing .