[June is Pride Month, and this year we're celebrating by honoring 30 LGBTQ firsts. To see the full list, visit nbcnews.com/pride30.]
Benson Churgai made history in February 2020 after becoming the first openly transgender recruit to join the Philadelphia Police Department, which employs around 6,500 officers, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. After hiding his identity over many months of training, he came out to 42 of his fellow recruits during a speech at the Philadelphia Police Academy.
“I want to be honest with everyone here,” he said in comments reported by the Inquirer. “In April 2016 … I made a decision that was best for me. I came out as a transgender male.”
Churgai told the paper he made the speech because he wanted his fellow officers to hear the news directly from him.
“I was shaking,” he said. “It was the moment where this is it, there's no turning back, I’m in it right now. So after I finished the speech I had prepared for them, they all stood up, they all clapped, they all thanked me for having the courage and they all supported me.”
Churgai, who grew up in northeast Philadelphia and wanted to be a police officer since he was “a little kid,” said he hopes other people who experience discrimination can look to him as inspiration to pursue their dreams.
"When you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, you often feel like you can’t have a career,” he said. “But when I put on that uniform, it’s not just a job. I’m living a dream I’ve always had.”
Churgai was sworn in with the department's 391st class, according to local news outlet WPVI-TV. He told the station that he hopes his presence on the force will give LGBTQ people “the courage they need to call 911 if they need help.” He said he wants them to “be able to reach out and feel like they will be treated like every other person, and that the police department is being proactive in hiring people of their community onto the force.”