When you think firefighter, no doubt an image of a towering, broad-shouldered, axe-wielding figure in uniform comes to mind. If you were only picturing a man, think again, because Brooke Guinan meets all those requirements. In one of the most visible fire departments in the world, among more than ten thousand employees, Guinan is one of 44 women, and the only trans woman.
In a recent Village Voice feature, Guinan opened up about her life and profession, and about the difficulties transgender people face when trying to define themselves with the limited vocabulary that society has in place to explain biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
"I don't have a sexuality! How does the world define a woman who was born male who likes men? What is the sexuality for that? You could say I was gay, but I don't identify as male. Trans is my gender identity. 'Transgender' is about my gender; it has nothing to do with my sexuality."
The feature also looks into Guinan's childhood, her relationship with her family (she comes from a long line of firefighters), and how well she fits into the hyper-masculine world of the FDNY.