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Your community apologizes, Police Officer Garcia

Commentary: Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest

Christine Garcia

It is a very difficult life to be transgender … dealing with the reality that you were born in the wrong body. The cold hard facts are that not only do a vast majority of Americans not understand our transgender brothers and sisters, sadly many gays, lesbians and bisexuals do not and many do not have any transgender friends.

It was wonderful and heartwarming to see San Diego Police Officer Christine Garcia win an award at the 41st annual Nicky Community Awards; to see her get a long and loving standing ovation from the sold-out crowd as Ms. Garcia is the first openly transgender police officer in the San Diego Police Department and has gotten involved in her LGBT community.

Four days after being acknowledged by her LGBT community and family, Ms. Garcia was barred from entering The San Diego LGBT Community Center because she was in her police officer’s uniform. In my over 45 years of activism, I have never heard of such an outrageous and disgusting act against one of our own at our community center, period. What makes this worse is all Officer Garcia wanted to do was to attend the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance and honor the many transgender Americans who have been killed or committed suicide (involving four transgender teenagers in San Diego alone).

By the way, this annual event is put on by The Center and Officer Garcia was on the planning committee! It seems a few people at the event did not want Ms. Garcia to attend while in uniform (she was on duty).Who made this decision at The Center? It was Sarah Merk-Benitez, The Center’s community programs supervisor and I think she should be fired. And dig this – Ms. Merk-Benitez is a straight woman who barred a transgender woman from entering her very own LGBT center!

According to many, this is not the first time that Ms. Merk-Benitez has been insensitive to LGBT people. She needs to go!

The next day when I heard about this, I immediately called Dr. Delores Jacobs (The Center’s executive director) and she had not even heard about the incident. Before making that call, I got a hold of Officer Garcia and apologized to her and I also called Police Chief Zimmerman and apologized to her.

Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner

After much communication with Dr. Jacobs, she rightfully phoned Officer Garcia and the police chief to apologize.

I thank Dr. Jacobs for putting immediately into place a permanent policy that I requested making sure this never happens again. By the way, six days later and counting Ms. Merk-Benitez still has not apologized to Officer Garcia. Is it time to get a petition started to have Ms. Merk-Benitez removed from our Center?

By the way, there is no record of any transgender police officer being asked to take off their uniform in the entire country, or an African American or Latino officer at their own community center.

San Diego Police Officer Christine Garcia deserves an apology from all of us and I encourage you to let her know that we support her and appreciate her as we do all police officers protecting our neighborhoods and communities.

Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner

For the last 28 years, The Imperial Court and The Center have been hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner for those alone, those living with HIV/AIDS, those living with cancer, seniors and the homeless. As many as 600 have shown up, both LGBT and straight families; all are welcome. Also, The Imperial Court takes dinners to local hospitals, youth centers and shelters.

A special thank you to this year’s chairs: Board President Michael Lochner, Emperor Summer Lee and Empress Jaeda Reign and all of the wonderful volunteers. Plus to all of the following who have made this possible a huge thank you: The Rob Benzon Foundation, Benjamin F. Dillingham III, AHF Pharmacy, Hillcrest Pharmacy, San Diego Cruisers MC, The Eagle and Sir Nicholas, San Diego firefighters, Big Mike Phillips, Councilman Todd Gloria, Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins, Emperor Ashtray David, Empress Milo Angel, Tom Urbanski, Tim Maxwell, Rory Chrz, Stephen Boyer, Duncan Stewart, Regina Roberts, Courtney Ray of Harley Gray Restaurant. God bless you all!

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=75611

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Your community apologizes, Police Officer Garcia”

  1. I respectfully disagree with Nicole’s call to fire Ms. Merk-Benitez. While Merk-Benitez may have been the LGBT Center’s staff person who blocked Officer Christine Garcia from entering the building, I believe that Merk-Benitez took action on behalf of a vocal segment of the transgender community that is in opposition to any law enforcement appearing at a trans event. This is not an isolated situation. There was opposition to police in uniform at this year’s Trans Pride. There was a lot of blowback when a federal agent in plain clothes was invited to speak at a previous TDOR.
    There are transgender people who are triggered by the police because they have been continually harassed and disrespected by law enforcement. Nicole certainly knows first-hand about being harassed by law enforcement. If I were in their shoes, I’d feel the same way. But I’m white and middle class, and my privilege insulates me from the day-to-day struggles of many less fortunate trans people. So I do not believe that this particular incident should be seen simply as a straight cis woman who took it upon herself to stop a transgender police officer from attending our event. She most likely took this action because some trans folk convinced her to intercede on their behalf. I believe that our local trans community needs to take some responsibility for sending mixed signals to the center’s staff.
    But I’d like to use this incident to address the fact that many transgender people do not feel totally comfortable at the center.
    Not one to mince words, Nicole says that most lesbian, gay and bisexual people think transgender people are weird. And I agree with Nicole’s assessment. LGB people are just as likely to be put off by transgender people as their heterosexual counterparts. And for some LGB people, we trans folk are the freaks who are standing in the way of their march toward greater acceptance by society at large. This attitude toward us trans people has played out over many years in subtle and not-so subtle ways.
    Over the last few years, I’ve interviewed many people for Trans Narratives who say they are not comfortable at the San Diego LGBT Center. They talk about receiving strange looks or being totally ignored by the center’s staff and volunteers. Trans people know when cis people are uncomfortable around them. Some of us could care less, but many of us are hurt.
    I do not feel totally at home at the LGBT Center. Whenever I attend an event, I can’t help but look at all the pictures of the lesbian and gay people who adorn the center’s walls. While these people on the walls are rightfully celebrated as the shakers and movers of our community, I can’t help but notice the absence of trans people. During all those years when those plaques were being put up, didn’t we bring anything to the table?
    But progress is coming. Recently I attended an event where one of our trans sisters was inducted into the LGBT Center Veterans Wall Of Honor. She joins other trans siblings who were added to the wall earlier. And another part of our progress is to see a San Diego police officer who serves proudly as a transgender woman.
    Officer Christine Garcia is a member of our trans community. She has just as much right to appear in uniform as any other professional who comes from work to attend our events. I recently invited her as my guest to attend the next trans elders breakfast. I told her she is welcome to come in or out of uniform.

    • I think the supervisor should be fired 100%. I have been pulled out and thrown against my car at gunpoint by (LA County) police who later told me the reason for pulling me over was a parking permit in the mirror causing an “obstruction of view”. I know what harassment is. I was shocked and happy when I walked in and saw a police officer actually taking the time to serve the community. This is exactly what needs to happen to bridge the gap to form a trusting bond between the citizens and the police department. I have had only good encounters with SDPD after moving to their county. I think it’s absolutely disgusting for the supervisor to exhibit the lack of acceptance to Officer Garcia that the community is constantly pushing for not just on a local level, but globally. Fire her. She does not deserve to hold the position she is in. Thank you Christine Garcia and Chief Zimmerman for your outreach to the community. Keep breaking down those walls! It means a lot to me on so many levels! We love and appreciate you! Ms. Merk-Benitez, your behavior completely disgusts me. You disgraced the community you “stand” for. The was the move of a hypocrite.

  2. From Gina Roberts, President of Log Cabin Republicans San Diego:

    In light of the recent exclusion and marginalizing of San Diego Police Officer Christine Garcia, the Log Cabin Republicans would like to make the following comments. It is time for the LGBT community to stop making unfounded accusations and assumptions on the “fitness” of various people with views that may not entirely align with your own as to whether they should be part of the Center and the community. To believe that Officer Garcia represents anything but a wonderful supportive person is to show a close mindedness that we often accuse our “enemies” of possessing. Officer Garcia, whom nearly everyone in the community is aware, was recently awarded a Nicky award for her service to the community. She is a champion of inclusion and concern for the safety and well being of everyone in the community. To automatically discount her contributions because she wore her uniform to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an event she helped organize, was an action that displays the discrimination that we as a community have fought to change. The fact that the San Diego Police Department assigned her and allowed her to attend and participate in this event is an indication of just how far we have come in bringing equality and inclusion to San Diego. The fact that we have a Republican mayor in San Diego, that is a huge supporter of the LGBT community shows just how far we have progressed in changing the dialogue within other organizations that have been perceived as being hostile to our community. The automatic dismissal and exclusion of people that may have different views than your own does not acknowledge the long and hard work that some of these people are doing to advance true equality in outside communities. As the President of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego, I cannot count the number of times I have been “shamed” for belonging to a non traditional “supporter” of the LGBT community. As a gun owner and self defense proponent, myself and many others are immediately being dismissed as being anti LGBT community, where we are actively attempting to teach LGBT people the skills required to protect themselves in a violent encounter, and many in that same conservative community have fought long and hard against the marginalization of the LGBT people by laws and efforts to belittle us.

    It is time that we as the LGBT community, stop acting as we accuse others of being. We are seen by ourselves as being “the inclusionary good guys” when in actuality we are pursuing an agenda which requires a “purity” of thought that we accuse our enemies of having. It is time to recognize that not all people work the same way to improve our community, same of us continually support the efforts of the Center, even though those efforts seem to not be appreciated by our LGBT peers. For myself, I intend to keep working with other “non-traditional” supporting organizations to improve the well being of the LGBT community and the Center.

    • This is what the TG community does, if they don’t see you as being like one of them out you go. Especially Post Ops, who have integrated into the mainstream, and it doesn’t matter what color they are.
      The Transgender community has always been, and continues to be toxic.


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