She is truly one of New York City’s Bravest.
The FDNY’s only transgender firefighter is earning fans around the world as the poster child for a global campaign to raise awareness for gay and transgender rights.
Brooke Guinan, a third-generation smoke eater who works and lives in Queens, decided to participate in the Vocal Organization for International Courage and Equality’s “So Gay So What” campaign to challenge perceptions about what it means to be a firefighter, she said.
“There’s such a pervasive feeling in the general attitude of society that firefighting is a job for straight men,” said Guinan, 27, of Astoria.
In the digital poster, Guinan stands with her hands proudly at her hips, wearing her fire gear and a “So Trans So What” shirt.
Guinan’s poster has been the social media campaign’s most popular since its Sept. 24 release, with more than 6,000 shares on Facebook and Twitter, according to co-founder Darren Melchiorre.
V.O.I.C.E Guinan says she agreed to pose for the campaign to serve as a role model for others. According to V.O.I.C.E, the organization behind the campaign, Guinan's poster has caught fire on the internet: it's the most popular image for its latest campaign.
“It really went viral,” he said. “Her stance as a role model really made her shine.”
Guinan, whose father and grandfather also battled blazes for the FDNY says she’s motivated by the high numbers of unemployment and homelessness in the transgender community.
It took her a long time to visualize herself as a firefighter because she didn’t fit the masculine stereotype like her family members, she said.
“Most queer people think that being a firefighter, a cop, or having a government job is unattainable,” Guinan said. “What a lot don’t realize is you can do it.”
Transgender people experience double the unemployment rate of the general population, according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. About 90% reported harassment or discrimination when they did work.
Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News Guinan works at a firehouse in Astoria. During fires, she works in the engine. Guinan says the FDNY has supported her as a transgender woman.
The FDNY has come under fire for its lack of racial and gender diversity in recent years–only 41 of its 10,200 firefighters are women, for example–but it has supported Guinan since she began her transition from male to female four years ago.
The Fire Department allowed her to work a desk job at headquarters in recruitment while she was transitioning. And Guinan still does recruiting and outreach for the FDNY around the city as it tries to bolster its LGBT representation, in addition to her work as a firefighter in Astoria.
“We’re very proud of Firefighter Guinan’s participation in this important campaign,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
Some criticized the FDNY for its progressive move after the department posted the image on Facebook, but the majority applauded.
“I’ve been down dark, hot hallways,” wrote Jeffrey Taylor, a former city firefighter. “If you ask me, what Brooke is doing takes a whole lot more courage!”