CommunityPam's House Blend

How not to cover a trans story

The Houston Chronicle featured an article the other day about a police officer, Sgt. Jack Oliver, who is undergoing transition for sex reassignment. Oliver is the first HPD officer to transition while active on the force, and thus the reason for the interesting profile.

The good news is that the department is supportive, as is Oliver’s supervisor.

“They haven’t had a chance to figure out how they’re going to react to it and neither have I,” Oliver said.

Hans Marticiuc, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, sat next to Oliver at the news conference. He said the department will support the transition and offer any assistance Oliver may need.

“I know it’s unique, but certainly not the first of its kind,” Marticiuc said.

“Our department has a policy that we don’t discriminate,” said Gabriel Ortiz, HPD public information officer. “We will do what’s best for the employees and what’s best for the department.”

OK, the bad news is that, for no apparent reason, reporter Anita Hassan and her editor felt the need to find some bible-beating wingnut — no one on the police force, mind you — to comment on Oliver’s ability to do the job once fully transitioned.

However, at least one local pastor feels differently.

David Welch, executive director of Houston Area Pastors Council, said he thinks Oliver’s decision to have the operation raises questions about his capability as a police officer. “That would raise issues of competency in the line of duty in my mind,” Welch said.

What kind of irrelevant crap is this? And his expertise is…?

Who is Welch? According to Blender Dennis O., who passed this story along, he’s a well-known fundie windbag in Houston. He was part of the Texans for Marriage movement, which helped push through the state’s marriage amendment. You can actually see a video of Welch bleating at the TfM web site (go to Video Gallery, and find Dave Welch under “Education”).

Welch famously said that the Texas amendment was needed in order to “honor the marriage bed.”

He’s listed up there along with one of Bush’s favorite black pastors, Rev. Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. of Cornerstone Baptist Church (who said of NOLA after Katrina “They have devil worship. They advertise ‘Sin City’ tours. They celebrate Southern decadence. Girls go wild in New Orleans. Sometimes God does not speak through natural phenomena. This may have nothing to do with God being offended by homosexuality. But possibly it does.”) Brothers in arms, huh?

Anyway, Chronicle readers noticed the stupidity of soliciting comments on Oliver’s reassignment surgery from local bigot Welch and wrote in.

IT was odd that the executive director of the Houston Area Pastor’s Council felt he had any reason to comment on the decision of Houston Police Department Sgt. Jack Oliver to undergo a sex reassignment process [see the Chronicle’s June 10 article “Veteran officer reveals he is undergoing sex reassignment”].

But it was even stranger that the Chronicle should have sought his opinion. Was this a misguided effort to offer “balance” to a story where there should be no controversy?

Oliver is apparently receiving the usual and customary treatment for a medical condition — nothing more and nothing less.

The fact that this condition is poorly understood and sometimes stigmatized by the public makes the officer’s willingness to discuss it in public an act of courage to be respected.

That Oliver has the support and confidence of colleagues and superiors in HPD should reassure those concerned about the officer’s fitness.

But if there were a question of “competency in the line of duty,” the Chronicle would have served its readers better by reporting the opinions of law enforcement and medical experts rather than that of a religious leader whose expertise, if any, is plainly irrelevant to the question.

MORRIS FLOYD Houston

***

WHAT a great story about Sgt. Julia (Jack) Oliver. At a time when most mainstream media paints a picture of the transgender community in a Jerry Springer-esque way, it is heartening for the Chronicle to run such positive articles about our community and its members. It was especially encouraging that the article ran during Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride month, not to mention the fact that the article ran on June 10 — the same day that three large events were being held by various transgender organizations in Houston.

Concerning David Welch’s comments on Oliver’s competency, I wonder if he meant to insinuate that a female sergeant would be less competent than a male. It was clear, however, that Welch had never met the person he was criticizing because, otherwise, he would know (as does everyone who has met her) that Oliver could easily take down the hardest of criminals.

GEORGES ZEMANEK Houston

Blender Dennis aptly said: “Apparently [Welch] was mentioned in the original piece because the Chronicle felt the need to provide the dumb-ass point of view.”

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Pam Spaulding

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