The theme for this LGBT+ History month is ‘behind the lens’, a theme which aims to celebrate LGBT+ storytelling in TV and Film as well as celebrating queer people who work in the industry. Network members have shared their stories of how seeing representations of LGBT+ people in TV and Film affected them.
Cagney and Lacey and Ellen
Growing up I never really thought too much about attraction as I was busy supporting Middlesbrough, playing hockey and some football (albeit when the dinner nannies weren’t looking). I began to notice a TV program that got me hooked due to there being female Detectives on there, a catchy soundtrack and characters with a bond that was all new to me. Cagney and Lacey were the people I wanted to be. I watched in awe as they slid down bannisters in their skirts, without dropping their handbags and keeping hold of their guns.
This inspired me towards being in the Police. With my attractions till not really forming part of life.
This was until I got to my early 20’s. By then I had gone to University and kissed a girl and I liked it.
So there we have it, a journey of personal discovery began. That was until I joined Merseyside Police in 1996. Playing the field was on TV and Ellen was on her way out of the proverbial closet. The environment I worked in was homophobic, isolating and yet, I loved (and still do) being a Police officer.
The star footballer on playing the field was a police officer. I went to work feeling illuminous as conversations unfolded about both the show and her. I stayed still and never uttered a word about my then girlfriend, nor life away from work.
Ellen coming out was global news. She did it with aplomb, she was bold and then she lost work and kudos. I was just silent. I could not and would not speak my truth.
I was a thief taker, I was proactive and I was living my dream of being a police officer. Cagney and Lacey had paved the way.
However, I was aware of S28, I was not out nor open and Merseyside Police weren’t getting the best out of me. I watched the media with sadness and fear. George Michael outed, Freddie Mercury passing, Queer as folk hitting the screens and the pop scene being awash with Gay men. And yet I remained silent, I remained firmly in the closet.
It took a crossroads around 2001 when I thought do I stay, do I leave, what do I do?
That path took me to Debbie, my police trainer. She told me to stay, to change the organisation from within and she also guided me to the LGBT+ network. It was in its infancy, however for the first time, I found people a bit more like me. We met in secret, in the dark, with hoods up and brogues well hidden.
I have not looked back I have to say. The network gave me wings and around the same time, I got a CID attachment. I have been a Detective since 2001 and have loved every minute. I got to be a real life Christine Cagney (without the quiff) and to live my dream and my truth.
I am out and proud, I am thriving and enjoying every moment of my Police role. I am a Detective Sergeant, I have a Queens police medal for distinguished services to Police, I was Officer of the year in 2009 and International Police officer of the year followed on the same year.
I even got to go to USA and really feel like Cagney and Lacey, albeit it was more the drinking coffee and eating bagels than sliding down bannisters, that I got to do.
From seeing it, to being it and all because of a TV show with positive female Detective role models, to Ellen’s courage and that of many others since, I have achieved beyond my wildest dreams.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that seeing imagery, TV representation, film characters, public figures who look a bit like you, isn’t important, it is.
Cagney and Lacey is available on a variety of streaming services. Ellen can be seen on Amazon Prime. When they’re not eating bagels and sliding down bannisters, Tracy can be found working hard to protect Merseyside’s most vulnerable people, you can reach her at Tracy.O’email@example.com.