The ‘Transgenders and Intersexuals’ book cover was designed by Alex Bianchini-Kometer and is used here with kind permission of East Street Publications.



Transgenders And Intersexuals: Everything you ever wanted to know but couldn’t think of the question

‘As I read Lois May’s work I cannot escape the conclusion that our unreasonable fear of difference is one of the greatest threats to the long-term health of our species.’ - Jeff McMullen, Prize-winning journalist, broadcaster and author of A Life of Extremes

DETECTIVE SUPERINTENDENT JOHN REILLY tackled a less than tolerant culture within the Queensland Police Service to initiate the LGBTI LIAISON PROJECT.



PART 3 – True Grit: The Fight For Rights

Detective Superintendent John Reilly, State Crime Operations Branch (SCOB) Brisbane, Queensland

In 1998 Detective Superintendent John Reilly convinced the Queensland Police Service to run a pilot lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) liaison project in the Metropolitan South police region of Brisbane, with police receiving training as liaison officers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. 

Sergeant Maree Foelz of Logan District Crime Prevention volunteered her time and services and John also involved three senior detectives from the Child and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit. Their expertise in developing a training and awareness package for police liaison officers was supplemented by a visit to Sydney, where they attended the New South Wales Police Gay and Lesbian Officers' Course. 

John regards the acceptance of his LGBTI liaison proposal as one of the most significant achievements of his thirty-nine years of continuous service to the community.

‘I went to my first meeting in 1993 in the old CIB Building. About fifteen LGBTI people attended and these included several lesbians and gays, one bisexual man, and three transgender people. To clarify who and what transgender people were, I had to ask some very searching questions, and this was really my first introduction to transgenderism.

‘We managed to have the Police Operational Procedures changed in relation to transgender people who were unfortunate enough to find themselves locked up and I believe that was the first time that there was any such recognition of their special needs.

‘I recall that, during one training day at Mount Gravatt Police Station, there was a block training day for Senior Sergeants and Sergeants. There were about forty-five police in attendance and I arrived with three LGBTI people – one lesbian, one gay male and one transgender, who addressed the meeting on their issues with police.

‘I had told everyone that it was an open forum and they could say what they wished. The three community members told me later that they were fairly frightened at what happened next and that had I not been there they would have left quickly. It is interesting to note the reaction, however, because police attitudes reflect those of the general community.

‘One Sergeant told everyone in no uncertain terms how disgusted he was to have to listen to this crap and that the three presenters were sick. This prompted several other officers to have their say, but it also triggered off a situation where their peers had to question their attitudes. It was one training session that was talked about for a long time. Similar training sessions were subsequently held throughout the region and the Minister proved to be very supportive.

‘Implementation of the project is a huge task and it will take considerable time to roll out across the State. We have kept liaison with the transgender community as an integral part of the liaison role even though they do not fit neatly into the gay and lesbian categories. Transgenders are a very marginalised section of our community who suffer from all kinds of overt and hidden discriminatory practices, most of which the average citizen can't even begin to imagine.

‘The project required particular skills and competent project management and I discussed it with (then) Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Sparke who had just completed a major research project with outstanding success.

‘There have been many difficulties in trying to have the LGBTI program approved and implemented – organisational politics, outdated attitudes and a real fear and perception that such a program might somehow damage the police image.

‘In the long run, the Queensland Police Service has collectively taken the view that this program is a professional policing response to a very real and previously unrecognised problem of discrimination, fear, unreported crime and lack of accountability involving a marginalised section of the Queensland community. 

‘There is a long and difficult road ahead but I have a vision of establishing a support group for police who are from the LGBTI community and expanding on that to include all government employees from the various communities included under the LGBTI banner.

‘I know that the Queensland Police program is being watched closely by other departments before they decide to take affirmative action on similar issues confronting their organisations. It has always been the intention of the LGBTI Liaison Committee to ensure that LGBTI Liaison Project was not set up to fail and this continues to be the committee's position.

FOOTNOTE: Detective Superintendent John Reilly earned the gratitude and respect of the LGBTI community. He retired from the Queensland Police Service in August 2004.

Detective Inspector Michael E. Sparke (Former State Coordinator of The LGBTI Liaison Project) 

When Detective Superintendent John Reilly asked Detective Inspector Michael Sparke to assist with the expansion of the LGBTI Liaison Project across the state of Queensland, Mike had no idea that he was about to embark on one of the steepest learning curves of his career.

‘It is said that you can't learn too much about life’ Mike says. ‘Well, during the time I performed the role of State Coordinator of the LGBTI Liaison Program I learned more about life than I ever imagined I would need to know before John Reilly called me into his office in March 2001.

‘It was a great honour to be asked to continue this important work. John and I had worked together in the criminal investigation area for many years and his honesty, frankness, dedication, enthusiasm and outstanding work ability had always impressed me.

‘My involvement in policing commenced in January 1968 and [as at 2004] I have now completed thirty-six years of continuous service, including twenty-five years in Criminal Investigation. During my career I gained experience in both uniform and plain clothes.

‘I am a qualified workplace trainer and have completed tertiary studies in criminal justice administration and management. I am also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy (USA) and have travelled extensively overseas in Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia, Canada and the United States to study policing methods.

‘Throughout my working life I have had contact with a diverse cross-section of the population and therefore I have an awareness and understanding of the kind of issues affecting most people in the community – including gay men and women. My view is that if a person lives peacefully and lawfully their personal lives and persuasions should have no bearing on my opinion of them.

(Continued on page 2...)



Pictured above is Detective Superintendent John Reilly, who convinced the Queensland Police Service to run a pilot lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) liaison project in the Metropolitan South police region of Brisbane, with police receiving training as liaison officers to the LGBTI communities. John retired from the Queensland Police Service in August 2004 and he, along with his colleague Detective Inspector Michael E. Sparke, who implemented the LGBTI Liaison Project, earned the lasting gratitude and respect of the LGBTI community. Photo courtesy of John Reilly.