Lesbian woman makes history in top New York Fire Department role
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has named a lesbian woman as its chief of Emergency Medical Services, making her the department’s highest-ranked openly gay member.
Lillian Bonsignore becomes the first woman ever appointed to the post, which puts her in charge of more than 4,100 paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and other workers.
“Today I proudly become somebody else’s possibility,” she said in a ceremony on Tuesday (May 7).
“Today I proudly become somebody else’s possibility.”
—Lillian Bonsignore, FDNY EMS chief
“Some day in our world, we will not have to talk about the fact that I am a woman, or about being openly gay when I received a promotion like this. But today is not that day.”
Lillian Bonsignore a 28-year FDNY veteran
Bonsignore first became an EMT in 1991 as an 18-year-old single parent.
Over a 28-year career she rose through the ranks, serving as a first responder during the September 11 attacks.
Most recently she served as head of the EMS academy before being promoted to the highest office by Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
Nigro told reporters including those from CBS New York at the event: “There is that old expression, sometimes the best man for the job is a woman. And Lillian is the best person for this.”
FDNY EMS chief sworn in with wife by her side
After coming out aged 30 Bonsignore met her wife Kim, who held the bible during her swearing-in.
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“I am speechless. I always knew she could do this,” Kim told reporters.
Her daughter Madeline—one of Bonsignore’s two children—added: “It makes me so proud to see what she is doing for women, and especially me, looking up to her. She is such a role model.”
The New York Fire Department counts many LGBT+ people among its ranks.
In 2015 it released a touching video for the It Gets Better Project, with 12 of its employees speaking candidly about coming out.
The film was directed by Brooke Guinan, FDNY’s first-ever transgender firefighter who was appointed grand marshal for the 2017 New York Pride.