Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. A day where we celebrate and acknowledge the lives and contributions of members of the trans community. This year, we are proud to profile some of our members and share what Transgender Day of Visibility means to them.
PC Al Smith – West Midlands Police
I grew up in rural Devon during the introduction of Section 28 and remember the anti-gay tabloid headlines well. While I was academically gifted and succeeded at school sports, as well as judo at a national level, I was bullied throughout my time at school. I realised I was gay when I was 11, but didn’t feel able to ‘come out’ until I’d escaped to university. I needn’t have worried as my family have always been supportive of me.
I followed in my father’s footsteps and joined the police in 1998 – it was a way of helping others and enjoying a varied career. I ended up joining West Midlands Police because it was one of the few forces at the time that included sexual orientation in its equal opportunity statement. At the time I identified as a gay woman. There was no way I was going back into the closet, but I wanted to know the force would have my back if I was bullied again for being me.
I’m currently a force Intelligence Officer, a role I’ve thoroughly enjoyed for over 15 years. I describe my job as supporting my colleagues to work smarter to deliver proactive policing. Every day offers a new challenge, needing me to be creative and a problem solver. I’ve worked with teams tackling Organised Crime Groups involved in drug supply and the use of firearms, high risk sex offenders, as well as assisting in those investigating domestic and child murders. I’m currently part of our Serious & Organised Crime tackling violent gangs who exploit others, for example through County Lines drug dealing.
My self-awareness has developed since I joined the police and I now identify as trans, non-binary and describe my sexuality as pansexual. I started my formal transition in 2007, at the age of 35, and I’m currently the trans lead for the National LGBT+ Police Network. I work in partnership with colleagues of all ranks and grades, from new Intelligence Officers joining my team to Chief Constables commanding national DEI portfolios, to ensure the police service is better able to promote itself as an employer of choice for all individuals, not just those who are trans – for all those who want to serve their community and make a difference. It’s been an absolute honour to serve with pride alongside my colleagues who have, by and large, been wholeheartedly supportive of me as we work hard together to prevent crime, protect the public and help those in need.
TDOV is important to me because it’s an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate being trans. Being non-binary meant I’ve had to fight hard for a number of years to access healthcare, but it was well worth the battle as I’m finally comfortable being truly me. I’ve met some amazing people on my journey who are fabulous sources of inspiration too. TDOV honours them and the wider trans community for having the determination to embrace our true potential.
My advice… Don’t let haters drag you down. Focus on what you can control and having a positive perspective. Connect with like -minded people, be that LGBT+ role models or anyone who whose values and conduct you admire. Help support each other in whatever you’re seeking to achieve. We’re all stronger together.