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Policeman: Coming out and finding balance
by Micki Leventhal

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It took Chicago police officer GV some searching to find himself, but at age 37 and being a 10-year veteran of the force, he's happy and secure in his work and his life. And, his early struggles at self-acceptance have likely contributed to the officer's sunny disposition, gentle energy and appreciation of other's viewpoints.

GV is on the planning committee for the 14th Annual International LGBT Conference for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals taking place in Chicago June 22-27. He's organizing the public social event at The Baton show lounge on June 25, selling ads in the program booklet and selling tickets to the several conference events that are open to the public.

Married and a father at 17, the Chicago native grew up "mostly" in Little Village and graduated high school from John F. Kennedy in Garfield Ridge. His first marriage lasted "just under three years," as did his second marriage, a relationship he entered at "roughly 23 or 24," and which produced another son and a daughter. "My second marriage ended because I had finally accepted myself and who I was and what I wanted in life," explained GV, who had dated men between the two heterosexual unions. "I felt as though it wouldn't be fair to her to live her life with me. I couldn't give her what she wanted or needed. It was better for her to find somebody else."

After his second divorce, GV decided it was time to come out to his family. Being gay "was a feeling I had growing up, but I didn't know how to deal with it. But after my second divorce something just told me to accept who I am and at that point I decided to call each of my four brothers and my sister. One by one I told them I wanted to meet up with them in person," he said. "That same day I told each of them that I'm gay and accept who I am. All of them were shocked; some were difficult and some were easy.

"I finally told my mom. She had a hard time, she cried. But she always used to tell me that the most important thing for her as a mom is that her kids are happy and I reminded her of that. And I explained to her that I am happy; I've accepted myself and feel at ease and comfortable now. I've never told my dad, he's very old-fashioned. I think he knows, but we just pretend."

During the years that he was dealing with both the challenges of young parenthood and grappling with his sexual orientation, GV started college at Roosevelt University, moved on to Daley College and "somehow ended up at Malcolm X College taking a phlebotomy course and an EMT ( Emergency Medical Tech ) class." This led to a job at Cook County [ now Stroger ] Hospital.

GV entered the police academy in 2001. "I was never really interested in being a police officer, which is weird. I was working as an EMT and waiting to take the firefighter exam, but the police exam came up," he said. A friend in the police department who was moonlighting at County talked up a career as a police officer. "I took the exam. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made," he said. He even returned to college after joining the force, earning a 2007 bachelor's degree in law enforcement management from Calumet College.

GV did his first year on the force training in the 5th district in the far south Pullman/Roseland area. He was then assigned to his current district—the 10th—which covers the North Lawndale and Little Village communities on the West Side.

It wasn't until after a few years into his career and because of a serious, live-in relationship that GV came out to his co-workers. "I brought my boyfriend to a party. I was proud that I had him in my life and I introduced him around as my boyfriend." While co-workers expressed surprise, they were all accepting.

After he'd come out on the job, GV took the step of becoming a member of LGPA/GOAL-Chicago and has been attending meetings and events since "about 2006." The work of the organization is important to him; his two top priorities are the continued fight for equal partnership benefits such as pension for LGBT officers and better diversity/sensitivity training in the academy and beyond. "Officers are not adequately trained in how to deal with our community, we need more diversity and sensitivity training," he said.

While better LGBT diversity training is a priority for GV, he nevertheless believes that all officers have a duty to "treat everyone equally—gay, straight, Black, white—every citizen should be treated the same and get the same good service," he said. "Being a police officer and being a gay man are two separate things, like any career. If you're an architect your job is to be a good architect. If you're a police officer, you perform your assigned responsibilities, being a gay man does not make a difference. Although, if we respond to a call dealing with issues in the community we can probably relate better, but I can't say that a straight officer is not going to relate well. Being a gay man as a police officer is just a plus."

GV recently took a temporary administrative assignment in his district office, covering for a fellow officer who is on medical leave. "The 10th district is what we call an active and busy area," explained GV. "Sometimes we get out of roll call you have three or four calls waiting for you, especially in the summertime. It might be a burglary report or criminal damage. Our jobs and services are prioritized. If it's a domestic battery or an in-progress, we go to it immediately, but if it's just a report that needs to be filed, they are what we call stacked. Every job is important, but people need to realize that if there's an immediate threat or danger that's when we go, lights and sirens. I do miss the street and I'm looking forward to getting back there."

GV lives by himself in the Brighton Park neighborhood, but has recently gotten into a relationship that is "pretty serious" and he's very happy. He is also working to get more balance in his life. "I used to work a second job as a Chicago Public School security officer, but I changed that. I needed more time to myself." He talks to his three children—now 19, 14 and 13—every day and weekends include face time with all of them. Spending time with the new boyfriend, training for his second Chicago marathon, working out at the gym, socializing with friends over dinner, movies or bowling and some downtime "on the couch" round out the off- duty hours.

GV also loves to travel and goes on at least one good vacation a year. He's been to Spain and especially enjoyed Costa Rica, where he white-water rafted and zip-lined. He's also spent quality time on a variety of beaches in Mexico, adding, "I love the sun." This year a group of friends are considering Belize, and there will definitely be a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Life lived in the open appears to agree with Officer GV.

Note: Article edited Sept. 15, 2015

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