Gay. Female. Cop.: The Intersectionality of Gender and Sexual Orientation in Police Culture

79 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018 Last revised: 30 Oct 2018

Date Written: May 30, 2018


Police culture has traditionally been defined as heterosexual and hypermasculine in character (Franklin, 2007). Research into the lived workplace experiences LGBTQ police officers consistently identifies challenges in such areas as workplace harassment and discrimination because they do not fit into the police culture’s “norm”. (Hassell & Brandl, 2009; Jones & Williams, 2013). We posited that female police officers who identify as LGBTQ face additional challenges when compared to their heterosexual, female counterparts because their experiences of LGBTQ female officers is co-determined by their gender and their sexual orientation (Boogaard & Roggeband, 2010). A total of 40 female LGBTQ police officers completed a survey on their lived experiences. Subsequently, 10 survey respondents participated in two focus groups to further consider their lived experiences in these areas. An Appreciative Inquiry model was used to guide the focus group discussions. Our research found that being “female” and being “gay” exposes police officers to some similar challenges in terms of both their gender and their sexual orientation, specifically workplace harassment and having to conform to masculine “norms” (e.g., act tough). However, the research also suggests that these and other challenges in a police environment based on sexual orientation is not as overt as that based on gender. This may be due to one’s sexual orientation not be a “visible” characteristic (as gender or race would be) and thus less subject to overt harassment and other negative workplace experiences.

Keywords: LGBTQ, Gay, Lesbian, Policing, Police, Law Enforcement, Culture, Police Culture

Suggested Citation

Couto, Joe L., Gay. Female. Cop.: The Intersectionality of Gender and Sexual Orientation in Police Culture (May 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Joe L. Couto (Contact Author)

University of Guelph-Humber ( email )

207 Humber College Boulevard
UG 208-3
Toronto, Ontario M9W 5L7
(416) 798-1331 (Phone)

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