|Port of Miami CBP officers with YES Institute staff.|
The topics of gender and orientation impact relationships everywhere, and the Department of Customs & Border Protection (CBP) is no exception. Comprising the largest law enforcement agency in the US, over 45,000 sworn federal agents and officers are tasked with overseeing 300 ports of entry.
This June, both the Miami International Airport (MIA) and the Port of Miami invited YES Institute to open a dialogue with staff as part of their diversity initiative. In addition to hearing first hand experiences from people who identify as gay and transgender, specific instances of fear and confusion around gender were also shared in the dialogue.
At MIA, all the officers expressed how beginning the conversation was a worthwhile experience for them. “I learned more about how different gender is from sexual orientation. It was extremely educational and a moving dialogue.”
At the Port of Miami, some of the officers shared their discomfort when the gender presentation of a US citizen didn’t match their ID. One officer recalled, “I was so worried about getting it right–I wanted to be politically correct and not offend, but what if I accidentally said the ‘wrong’ gender to them?” Rachel Sottile, Executive Director of YES Institute offered, “One thing you could do is ask, ‘How do you want to be known? What pronoun do you prefer?’ For many who are in the process of a gender transition, the ID checking process can be fearful and threatening. If you come from a willingness to acknowledge people how they want to be known, you can make a huge difference.”