A ‘Period Dignity Officer’ Seemed Like a Good Idea. Until a Man Was Named.
The New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security is preparing for the possible rollout of a “period dignity officer,” a newly-created role that would be charged with helping men and women who come in for medical, psychiatric and legal assistance.
Some have hailed the planned position — described as akin to a “buddy” and a “peer helper” — as an improvement on the “gatekeeper” functions currently handled by the agency’s nearly 50,000 employees. Many other men and women who have come out of the facility say they felt pushed aside to serve as gatekeepers.
“To be a gatekeeper, you have to be one thing, and that’s a gatekeeper. But a dignity officer is one more,” said Robert P. Seiden, who has been in a women’s detention center in Virginia for 21 years. “It’s a job that’s supposed to be done by trained professionals. [Now] they are taking it out of the professionals and handing it over to trained volunteers who may or may not have experience.”
The Times reports that the DHS will “create a position of period dignity officer within the agency’s Office of Intelligence and Counterterrorism. It will serve as the agency’s only unit that focuses on issues of gender identity and gender expression.”
The new role is part of a larger push by the DHS to integrate more “identity-focused programs” into its broader efforts to integrate the social services for its immigrant population into its core security-related functions.
The department’s Office of Intelligence and Counterterrorism is currently developing a new website to help people know the “real facts about what is happening at our borders and across our immigration system” and where to find information about their rights. (Read more about the new website here.)
As it seeks to integrate more social services into its current mission, the agency is moving to create a series of more specialized units focused on marginalized communities, though they remain relatively small in number.
One such unit, for instance, was created in 2009 to help women in abusive relationships. Since then, the number of women in abusive relationships (and the number of such relationships reported in DHS’