Benson Churgai lives out dream, makes history as first transgender recruit hired by Philadelphia police

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Friday, February 28, 2020
Philly police hires its 1st transgender recruit
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Benson Churgai is making his childhood dream of becoming a police officer a reality.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Benson Churgai is making history in the Philadelphia Police Department.

"I knew I needed to live my life and be true to who I was. I need to be honest with myself, and that was coming out as a transgender male," he said.

After nine months of training, Churgai, 24, was sworn in as part of the department's 391st class during a ceremony on Friday morning. Churgai, of Northeast Philadelphia, is the first trans person to reveal their identity before the process, and then complete the academy to graduate.

His close friends and family know his truth, but during the long months of training, he kept his full identity a secret from his classmates.

"I wanted to go through the academy like every other recruit. I didn't want people to know I was transgender because I didn't want to be treated differently. I wanted to be held to the same standards as everybody else," Churgai said.

That standard meant having to keep up with the men during training, and Churgai succeeded.

"Sometimes it seems that your hopes and dreams are not possible when you come out as transgender, but it is possible," he said. "It is possible to be who you want to be and do the career you want to have, it's possible. Just because your trans it doesn't mean you can't."

Two days before graduation, he ended his secrecy and told his fellow classmates the truth.

WEB EXTRA: Benson Churgai shares coming out letter to Philadelphia recruits

"I was shaking I was scared but everybody seemed to appreciate the courage that I had to do that," Churgai said.

Officer Kellyann Quigley, a fellow recruit and close friend, said she admires Churagi's bravery.

"I wanted to go up there and stand next to him. I couldn't imagine having to do that, especially with that news, so I gave him a lot of credit and I want to thank him," she said.

Officer Churgai is now etched in the department's history books, but he hopes his presence will make a difference on the streets right now.

"I hope it gives (others in the LGBTQQIA community) the courage they need to call 911 if they need help. 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," he said.