100 Women We Love: Class Of 2019

Lillian Bonsignore

Photo by FDNY

“Someday we will not have to talk about being a woman or being gay when getting a big promotion,” says Lillian Bonsignore, who in May became the first woman to be appointed Chief of Emergency Medical Services for the Fire Department of New York. “But today is not that day. We are not there yet.” We are getting closer to that day, though, thanks to the efforts of women like Bonsignore. As a 28-year veteran with EMS, she worked her way through the ranks from EMT to lieutenant, paramedic, captain, and station commander. In 2013, she was a deputy chief in the EMS Academy. In 2016, she was promoted to the chief of EMS Academy at Fort Totten—the same base she’d responded from as part of an EMS convoy following the 9/11 terror attacks. Since coming out at age 30, when she was already married and a mother of two, Bonsignore has had to deal with some hassle. “There were moments in my career when I had to face off with a couple of men that didn’t appreciate my lifestyle or the fact that I was a woman in a male-driven occupation,” she says. “I continued to stand my ground and refused to take ownership of someone else’s feelings. It was simply not my problem to worry about.” Instead, she lives her life and career without apology for who she is and recognizes that, in doing so, she is paving the way for others to do the same. “It is a great honor and privilege to be somebody else’s possibility,” she says. “Be who you are, love who you are, and live your truth.” —RK


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