Orange County gets its first transgender deputy

By : Billy Manes
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ORLANDO – As transgender rights continue to snowball at the end of Pride month – despite political opposition via religious freedom and bathroom bills – Rebecca Storozuk has hit the message homeward in Central Florida. Her message? People should be who they are. In an Orlando Sentinel article published June 23, Storozuk made it clear to the masses that she was indeed the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s lone transgender deputy with a headline reading, “I’m becoming who I want to be.”

As the story goes, Storozuk always identified as a female – even though born as “Peter” – and played the role of high-school jock fairly well all the way up to military service

“Football, wrestling, weighlifting – trying to get as strong as possible,” Storozuk told the Sentinel. “Being the toughest person and handling anything. … I was a very good actor in a very bad play.”

All of which, she says, led to personal conflicts and bouts of anger. That is until she became aware of the story of Christine Garcia in the San Diego Police Department, the first to transition in her unit. Garcia went through similar lengths.

The message of inclusiveness isn’t new, Equality Florida’s Director of Transgender Equality Gina Duncan says, though, of course, it’s welcome. This year’s St. Petersburg Pride featured the festival’s inaugural Transgender march with hundreds getting ahead of the hundreds of thousands leading the equality charge June 24. Having transgender individuals rise into public office or places of public service can only make that presence carry an even heavier message.

Storozuk is “breaking down barriers,” Duncan says, among other general stereotypes about the trans community.

“The other thing that I think is so important, I think, it’s just the visibility and the acceptance of trans people in our different institutions will continue to grow as our community continues to grow,” she says. “In the military, in the police; – they are normal people just doing their share.”

Calls to both the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orlando Police Department were not immediately returned, though the Sentinel story about Storozuk did include some hopeful quotes from Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who called the move within his corps “good business.”

“It has been shown that communities are best served by police agencies with a workforce reflective of the demographics,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Police Department has been moving forward with its Safe Place program, which you can visit at CityOfOrlando.net, that provides opportunities for LGBTQ people to show up at public places and participating private businesses to report hate crimes.

“In addition to the 911 police response to these incidents, OPD has a LGBTQ liaison officer, Lt. Jim Young, who has built partnerships within the LGBTQ community and is a resource for any questions or concerns our residents or visitors might have,” the website reads.

Young, who could not be reached for comment by press time, spoke to Watermark about the city of Orlando’s efforts to improve its reputation among the LGBTQ community, especially after the 2016 Pulse massacre.

“We just want the community to know that we are here for them,” Young said. “They just didn’t feel comfortable going to the police. Once they meet with me, though, they tend to feel much more comfortable talking to law enforcement.””

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