Attagirl: Transsexual Police Officer Nominated Grand Marshal of Pride Parade

The nominees for Grand Marshal of the Pride Parade were announced recently and Houston Police Officer Julia Christina Oliver is among the women named. That couldn't have happened two years ago when Oliver was still a male.

In 2006, Oliver, who had been on the force for more than 25 years, was beginning to make the transition from male to female and had just started hormone therapy. She had plans to tell her superiors, of course, but not just yet.

Those plans were put on fast forward when someone tried to blackmail her.

"I had somebody want $10,000 or they were going to tell the police department. So I went in and told them myself the next day, rather than let somebody blackmail me," Oliver tells Hair Balls. "My captain was very supportive. He made an effort to explain what was going on in my life to the other officers, and we suspect somebody walked out of that meeting and called Channel 2 News. The next morning, 9 o'clock, there they were at my doorstep, I was basically ambushed. In one day, I went from being very quiet and private to being very public about my life - whether I wanted to or not."

The news became a national story and Oliver was thrust into the limelight. "I can't tell you very much about the months that followed that, because to me it was just like somebody had thrown me off a big hill and I was just rolling down, hoping that I'd make it to the bottom alive."

There were people who supported Oliver during her transition, including Mayor Bill White and the brass at HPD. And while initially there were plenty of hard looks and hurtful remarks by other officers, there were moments of hope as well. "When I first came out I went to every roll for three days, so that I could explain to everyone what was going on. I could tell some people were uncomfortable, but there was this one guy who raised his hand and said, 'All I want to know is will you be able to sign my overtime slip.' 'Yes.' 'That's all I care about.'"

After the media circus died down, Oliver went to Thailand to have sexual reassignment and facial reconstruction surgery. She returned to the police force, to a mostly accepting environment, and was eventually reassigned to her old unit in uniformed patrol where she works now. (Where, by the way, yes, she does sign overtime slips.)

Life was settling into a quiet routine again.

Then along comes the nomination for Grand Marshall of the Pride Parade, one of the most visible "Look at me!" positions of the festivities. It puts her back in the limelight. And back in her boss's office explaining, "Sooo, there's this parade I might be in ..."

Is she ready?

"Before I came out, I was good at hiding," she says. "Nobody noticed me, nobody saw me. I wanted it that way. And now, just two years later, all this has happened and I am maybe going to be a Grand Marshall at the Parade - it's the definition of 'overwhelming.'"

-- Olivia Flores Alvarez

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