Over the past year or so, America has become very familiar with the notions of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”
That was the case on November 17th, when San Diego Police Officer Christine Garcia was turned away from her city's annual Transgender Day of Awareness event — simply because she happened to still be wearing her uniform.
As part of the security detail assigned to watch over the event's commemorative march, Garcia had spent her day ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone gathered there.
When she attempted to join the event to show her own support, though, she was told that she had “to leave because her uniform could upset others in attendance.”
Only later was the true irony of this decision revealed: not only was the officer a member of the small, 12-person committee that had planned the Day of Awareness, but Garcia herself is transgender.
As San Diego's first openly-transgender police officer, Garcia's story has — in many ways — been hailed as a paragon of the way communities should accept transgender individuals.
As Garcia explained:
"Telling 1,800 officers that I'm transgender, and not knowing how they were going to treat me, was my biggest obstacle.
I really didn't know if I was going to lose all respect from them."
When Garcia came out to her department in July of 2015, though, she was met with “a flood of support from colleagues — some of whom she had never spoken to before”:
“A lot of them came to me and said, 'You know what, you're a good cop, and that's all the matters'... It was very inspiring to me.”
To some of those in attendance last Thursday, however, it's clear that the only thing that mattered was what Garcia was wearing.
Since news of Garcia's rejection has come to light, San Diego LGBT Community Center CEO Dr. Delores Jacobs has released an apology for what she called a “misunderstanding”:
"When [police officers] are attending events, they are not here to 'police' The Center — though they may be in uniform or on-duty...
We do not wish to ever make any community member feel unwelcome at The Center — these officers are valued members of our community."
Nonetheless, Jacobs did note “that The Center has a responsibility to respect members who may not trust uniformed officers.”
While the police department has said that Garcia herself will not be available to comment, spokesman Lt. Scott Wahl released a statement praising the officer's “work in the LGBTQ community, noting she had recently been honored by several organizations.”
“The San Diego Police Department enjoys having a great relationship with the LGBTQ community.
We look forward to continuing our partnership in keeping our community safe."
It seems that a world dedicated to becoming a “safe space,” free of anything that anyone could potentially consider a “trigger,” might not be the panacea that so many insist it would be.