By Joe Morgan
Now that’s really making a difference.
Most police officers go into the job as a way of making a difference, and these two women are doing more than most.
Meet Marja and Ellie Lust – two officers living and working in Amsterdam.
Both of the Lusts entered into police work wanting to make changes to their city. In their years spent patrolling the streets, they learned what it means to be not only a guard but a guide to LGBTI people.
Soon after joining up, they both entered into pivotal roles in the Pink In Blue group. By electing themselves as lesbian faces in the police team, they encourage LGBTI people – if they suffer a hate crime – to directly contact a LGBTI officer. This has been hugely successful, and has sent reporting of hate crime rocketing.
This not only gives the police a better understanding of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the city, but also license to make sure those bigots are behind bars.
So it was only a matter of time before the Lusts came up with Proud To Be Your Friend – the first ever global summit for LGBTI criminal justice professionals.
With police officers, prison guards, correctional facility workers and more invited from around the globe, including in countries like the US, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Pakistan and Thailand, the Lust twins are hoping to make a difference.
The event will have officers from 36 countries attending. Travel and accommodation is free for participants providing 100% attendance.
‘We want people to leave inspired,’ Marja told Gay Star News. ‘We want people to go back and commit to do something in their respective organizations, and to do something that will make a change.
‘We want them to also connect with their local LGBTI communities.’
Taking place from today (3 August) until Saturday (6 August) at a secret conference venue in Amsterdam, criminal justice professionals will listen and debate as names like Human Rights Watch’s Boris Dittrich and Desmond Tutu’s former clergy daughter Mpho Andrea Tutu speak and and hold panel debates.
The venue and hotel the participants are staying in is secret over safety concerns. While the Lusts are not expecting an attack, they also do not want the identity of professionals attending from homophobic countries to be compromised.
One part of the conference will be where people can get up and share their stories.
A Canadian man will talk about how he wanted to become a mountie but couldn’t because he thought he was gay. After taking a picture, in Amsterdam, with two gay police officers 10 years ago, he will show another picture from 2016. This time, he will be shown with the same two gay Dutch officers but this time he will be in mounted police officer’s famous red uniform.
Another officer, from Serbia, will speak about what it is like to be the only openly gay police officer in the precinct – but the entire country.
The Lusts are hoping, if it is a success, a second summit for criminal justice professionals will be held in a new city three years from now.
The conference will end with 26 countries being represented on the World Police Boat as part of Amsterdam Pride.
As floats sail down the Amsterdam canals, officers will wave at the cheering crowds – knowing what it is finally like to be appreciated for your work and not be picked out because of your sexuality or gender identity.
‘I have been on the boat and I know how breathtaking inspiring it is to under those 25 bridges,’ Marja said. ‘Police don’t really get much applause apart from at a Pride.
‘My wish for those people is for this week to be a lasting memory that they will take home and be inspired by. We want to present this city as a future image of how we want the world to be.’
This article was originally published on Gay Star News.