FSWO announces 2018 winner of Pink Helment of Courage Award, Mindy Jeffries

The Pink Helmet of Courage award recognizes an individual who demonstrates courage in facing hardship and adversity. In showing strength against adversity, Mindy Jeffries also embodies the mandate of FSWO by “Educating, Encouraging and Empowering” women in the fire service.

Despite the threat of deep social exclusion and discrimination, Mindy took a brave and important personal step by coming out as a transgender woman in 2014. Although Mindy considered retiring when she took a leave of absence from work to initiate her transition, she took brave steps and worked with her association, employer and health professionals to make a smooth and safe return to her workplace possible. She has blazed a trail for others despite a very real fear of ostracism by her colleagues. Her insistence that transwomen belong in the fire service pushed her colleagues to get educated: her department began researching and being literate on the Ontario Human Rights Code and workplace accommodations required by law for transpeople, her association took steps to educate and train its members, her colleagues had the opportunity to openly discuss how to treat transpeople with respect, and finally members of the public are able to work with Mindy and see that she is not only a capable firefighter, but also an amazing role model.

When Mindy considered retiring from the fire service, she realized that it was important for her to return to work so that she could pave the way for transpeople in the future who might feel it is impossible to be themselves at work. In such a gendered and conservative field of work, Mindy wanted to prove that being yourself and true to your gender is valued. The effect of seeing positive images of transpeople working in valued careers such as the fire service cannot be underestimated: due to transphobia, transpeople are some of the highest educated people with the lowest employment rates.

As a transgender woman captain, Mindy is also an advocate for women on the job. She understands the challenges of being a woman leader. She has always wanted to serve her community and stands up for people who are bullied. Her passion and empathy for others should be recognized and celebrated. Please join FSWO in congratulating Mindy on for her achievements and for being the recipient of the 2018 Pink Helmet of Courage Award.