There is a light at the end of the tunnel is the message Const. Connie Henderson wants lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens to hear.
That’s why the Richmond RCMP officer agreed to go on camera, along with 20 colleagues, to film a nine-minute video called It Gets Better, in which she talks about her experience of coming to terms with her lesbian identity.
“I thought (making the video) was really important. I know, for me, not having known anybody as a teen who was gay (was hard.) If there was more support, it might have made me more aware.”
Raising awareness is why Const. Cheryl Letkeman of the Surrey Youth Section posted a notice to all the Lower Mainland RCMP detachments asking for LGBT staff to participate in the video to show these issues are universal and can affect anybody.
In the anti-gay bullying video released earlier this week, 31-year-old Henderson refers to herself as a “late bloomer” not realizing she was gay until she was 29 years old.
She said when she was young, there were no programs, education or even much mention about the LGBT community.
Like others struggling with their sexual identity, Henderson always knew something about her was different.
“My mom died when I was really little — I thought the attraction I had to women was towards a mother figure. Then one day I realized that I was very attracted to one woman in particular and it was like, okay, (this) is not just an emotional connection with somebody.”
However, Henderson didn’t come to that conclusion until after getting married and having a child with her former husband.
Coming out in today’s world, where being gay doesn’t carry as much stigma as it once did, does have its advantages. Even in her line of work, she said it’s not all that often she faces discrimination.
“At work I’m pretty open. I’ve never stood up on a podium, but I just live my life and people are very respectful. Some people have said they’re really proud of me now that I’m out. They’ve noticed a really positive vibe, and the feedback I’ve gotten is how much happier I seem.”
In fact, the only incidents Henderson — a traffic investigator — can recall have been while making arrests when she hears the occasional “dyke” comment.
“It’s something they throw out in anger when you’re a female police officer and you have short hair,” she said.
Nevertheless, we can’t be complacent about bullying in any form, said Henderson, citing the Amanda Todd tragedy.
“People don’t have any idea how negatively their comments on the Internet can affect other people. The anonymity is like when you’re driving and swearing at the person in front of you. If you were face-to-face, you wouldn’t say the things you’re saying.”
Born and raised in Surrey, Henderson has worked in the Richmond detachment for the last two and half years.
She feels the city is very tolerant, never having dealt with or even hearing of any hate crimes targeted towards gays.