06/15/2006

Houston officer begins sex change treatment

The Associated Press

Houston — Sgt. Julia Oliver's fellow officers in the Houston Police Department likely wouldn't recognize her the way she looked Wednesday.

Her dark hair was chin-length and curled, lipstick covered her lips and a splash of blush was brushed across the high cheekbones of the 24-year police veteran.

Oliver, who was born Jack Oliver and has fathered five children, has begun medical treatment to have her gender reassigned. The patrol sergeant has been receiving hormones for several months and told her co-workers last week, but won't transition to a female at work until her name is legally changed in a few months.

She believes she is the first member of the Houston Police Department to make this change but other officers across the country have done it.

Fellow officers and her union have been overwhelmingly positive, she said. Some of them even bought greeting cards that were passed around the station and signed with words of encouragement when she announced it to her coworkers on Monday.

"There have been no outward negative feelings," she said. "I've had a number of officers come up to me and tell me that they're very proud and very supportive."

But others were less certain.

"I've had some people who had told me that because of their personal beliefs and religious beliefs they couldn't support this," she said. "But they will follow the department policies and procedures and still work with me."

Oliver spoke at a news conference surrounded by trangendered people and others active in Houston's gay and lesbian community. Her lawyer showed pictures of Oliver as a young boy with a crew cut, a fluffy-haired teenager and a mustachioed young man to illustrate the change.

Oliver has told the officers that she would like to be called Julia at work.

"If they're not comfortable with Julia, sergeant's fine," she said. "Most of them call me 'Sarge' in the first place. I doubt seriously some of them even knew what my first name was."

The 49-year-old Oliver is divorced and has five grown children who range in age from 18-30. She plans to remain on the force for at least seven more years.

She has been wrestling with whether to make this transition for some time and the last two years it has weighed heavily on her.

"It came to a point where I had to do something," she said.

She thinks that now the process has begun she will be a better police officer because she is no longer grappling with the decision and she can "focus full-time on the job and the officers."

Oliver will have to get new uniforms that will fit her as her body changes from the hormones and she will also receive a new bulletproof vest made for a woman.

Oliver said she has worked for and with several female officers in her career and that she hopes to "emulate what I have seen them do and how they have performed for our department and our city."

See related:

Supreme Court avoids transsexual Ohio officer case

Pa. officer comes out as transgender cop

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