A Trans Man in Rural Georgia is the Unlikeliest Star of 'Small Town Security'
By Jerry Portwood
AMC's new docu-reality series, Small Town Security, takes place in Ringgold, Georgia, a small town on the border near Chattanooga, Tenn. After watching the quirky show, we spoke to one of the most unusual characters to reveal his private life in a reality series, "Lieutenant" Dennis Croft.
Employed by the irascible Joan "The Chief" Koplan—she of the dark eye makeup and snippy one-liners (and a former fun-time girl in her youth)—Croft is a no-nonsense security professional who rarely cracks a smile and who sleeps in the office because it's "convenient" and means he's on-call at all hours. As we learn in the debut episode, Croft is also a trans man, who most of the townsfolk seem to accept without question.
Having lived for several years in Atlanta and having family in the Deep South, I was instantly drawn to this story of small-town life, with all the Southern charm and peculiarity. At last! Someone is showing that the South isn't all plantations and backwards moral values. It's also people just making it work. And if anyone wonders why people who are "different" don't always flee to big cities that are perceived as more open-minded, now you have a group who can answer those questions directly. Sometimes you can get away with anything in a small town.
Out: You living in Ringgold—I've been there on my way to Chattanooga—it's not a big place. Why stay there?
Dennis Croft: That's where my job is. I work at JJK. It's in Ringgold, that's why I live here. I was in the military and moved around a bit. This is where I am now.
But are you originally from the South?
No, I am from New Jersey.
I was curious, since you are serious about security, were you interested in actual law enforcement? Did you want to be a police officer and it didn't work out for some reason?
I was toying with the idea, I thought it was a good foothold to do security. But then I considered my age at the time. At 32, I didn’t feel like I would be on the cutting-edge of being a police officer. Once I got into security work and found the difference—my perception of what a police officer was rather than a security person—I didn't want to.
What's the difference exactly between the two?
Security is more customer-oriented and we're more polite in general. I didn’t want to be an asshole, to be honest with you.
What sort of discussion happened in the office when the idea of a reality show came up? Did you ever think, this isn't a good idea?
There was a bit of discussion when Chief brought it up. Everyone seemed to be in to it. No one thought it would actually be looked at. We didn't think it was something that would ever be on television.
Why did you decide to expose your life and your profession on TV?
I had never seen security as a profession on television. I had seen it in movies or such. I thought this would be an open landscape. I wanted people to look into this. Most people think that guards, that they just sleep all the time and they get paid to be there for sleeping. People don’t realize the actual work that it takes.
So you want to show what it means to be a good security professional?
Has anyone else seen the show yet in the town. Or will it be a surprise when it airs?
No, no one has seen it. This Sunday will be the first.
OK, but I noticed in the episode I watched that you also seem to be willing to do anything that your boss, Joan Koplan, wants you to do. Why does she have this power over you?
We all have our strengths around Joan; we orbit around Joan in our own way, but she's at the center. We all complement Joan in our own way. Joan is the strongest.
But you have transitioned from female to male, weren't you concerned when you decided to transition that it would be difficult in this small town? And now revealing it to everyone who lives there?
I was somewhat concerned. I have been transitioned publically for a while now. I didn’t want to bring that subject up to the community at the time. I’d rather stay anonymous and just be below the radar.
But you decided to go on her new public access show and be her first guest.
Chief really thought it would be a good start for her show. I did it for her.
So far, from what I've seen, it seems like no one treats you differently, that you're not being harassed or bothered. Do you ever feel like you're in danger?
No. I absolutely say that that is so. They treated me as they treated me before. I haven’t had a cross word, at least spoken to my face or my orbiting group. I have nothing to hide. I know my employees know, so it will not be an issue. The public at large might get a big surprise.
What happens after the show airs and people start wanting to call you up and ask you questions?
Yes, if they come up and are inquisitive, I’m more than happy to spend an hour talking to them. Everyone needs an education. If they come up with hatred, ignorance, then that is stupid and they don’t need my time.
It seems like you can be very terse. Do you think it's because people are scared of you?
I’ve been told that I’m intimidating, I think I’m quite a kind invidivual. I don’t think I’m intimidating.
So are you hoping people will see a sweeter side of you on the show?
Yes, they will see another side of me than that.
OK, in the episodes I saw, you're living in the JJK office. Do you like living there? Are you still living there? Do you not want to have a separate home?
Yep, I'm living in the office. It’s convenient. I don’t need a whole lot. I’m single and it's only me to take care of.
Well since you mention that, do you want to be in a relationship with someone? Are you looking for someone to start a life with?
I’m already in a pseudo-relationhip.
What do you mean?
In other words, no strings attached. That’s permanent. I'm already in love with someone. For anyone else, it would only be a half-relationship. Anyone else would have to understand that's how it would be.
Umm. Do you mean you're in love with Joan, in a relationship with Joan?
But she's married, and you also work with her husband, Irwin, who you call "The Captain." How does he deal with that situation? Your feelings? All the time you spend with Joan? Is he jealous?
Off and on. There’s tension sometimes.
I think people are going to think it's strange that you do so much for them. That you make their meals, do anything they ask you to do, as if you're their servant.
Nothing I do for them is in that manner. Nothing I do... it’s not an obligation. It’s total willingness.
Is there anything else that you want people to know about that?
Yes, me and Chief, we don’t have a sexual relationship; it’s purely platonic. I wish it were more, but it’s not happening.
Well I wish you luck! This will be interesting to see, how people react.
Thank you, sir.