In case you can't tell: I am often at odds with my own community. While I do not have any major differences of opinion about the end goal of LGB and especially T activism, that being full equality under the law and acceptance in general society, I sometimes differ in the execution, often through a particular set of ideas and ideologies that run very contrary to my own. For the most part, I just do what you're supposed to do when you have a difference of opinion about the details but not the big picture -- yell in frustration and then go rant about it on social media to people who already agree with you. Seriously, though, mostly I just walk away, because the people I usually disagree with the most are so ideologically driven that it's become their identity, and they see any questioning of that ideology as a personal attack. But occasionally, when I run into these people, instead of walking away, I actually get pretty frustrated and angry. That's what happened just a few weeks ago.
This year the San Diego LGBT Community Center held a Transgender Day of Remembrance event, which held extra significance in the city because four transgender teenagers died there this year. After a march, which was escorted by the police, there was an event at the community center. However, when two uniformed police officers tried to enter the center, they were told by a senior staff member that they could not do so because it might upset a few of the attendees. Now, I get that LGBT community centers are supposed to be safe spaces and that there are people in the community who are without a doubt rightfully intimidated by and wary of police. Police have not always had the best relationship with the LGBT community, and so I understand why people feel that way.
But here's the catch: The officers who were turned away were Ken Myers, the LGBT community liaison officer, and Christine Garcia, San Diego's only out transgender officer. To make it more interesting, Officer Garcia also helped plan the entire event. (The center's executive director did subsequently apologize, saying the officers are welcome in uniform any time.)
The incident is an example of everything wrong with a lot of LGBT activism and ideology. I get the need for safe spaces, but when those safe spaces start to exclude members of our own community, they're not safe spaces but clubhouses where petty children with arbitrary rules decide who gets to come in. When it's decided that certain people aren't allowed to claim membership in the community because of who they are, what they believe, what they do, or even what they look like, it's no longer an inclusive ideology but a self-selected group of purists and right thinkers. In the attempt to respect the feelings of some, the concerns and fears of some, we have crossed a threshold that is no longer an attempt to comfort but an attempt to coddle.
I get that this person, who surely was trying to avoid every triggering thought that a cop being nearby could cause, was trying to protect, was trying to do the thing they thought was right, but they completely threw a trans person under the bus for the sake of others. A trans person who took time out of their schedule, took on the role of a community organizer, and gave their efforts to help a community just got told, "Thanks, but you're not actually welcome here because we don't like what you do for a living."
What's extra infuriating is that Officer Garcia represents what exactly LGBT activism and progressive ideology should be trying to achieve -- changing our society for the better. An open and proud trans woman being a cop and actually changing hearts and minds in every interaction she has shouldn't be a pariah; she should be given just about every award out there -- the ones that usually get handed out to people who often do very little to advance the community other than writing articles on websites and getting paid to lecture to people, and rarely introduce an original idea of their own, simply rehashing of the same talking points other people are rehashing. Instead, she's told that she frightens the very people for whom she's helping to make the world better.
The other officer, who works as the police liaison to LGBT San Diego residents, is there to be the community's voice to the department. You know how huge it is for a police department to have something like that? There are thousands of departments all over the country that don't and have terrible relations with the LGBT community. Sure, there are still problems between police and LGBT people, but damn it, at least San Diego is trying. And now, when they try, the kneejerk reaction is to tell them they're not even welcome to come around and learn how to be better.
Whenever you hear people complain about political correctness, there are two types of people complaining. One group of people complain about it because it means that they can't get away with being a bigot anymore. The other type of people who complain about it aren't bigots; they're good people, often people of color, LGBT people, women, and others who see a certain strain of ideology that really hasn't gotten a name of its own yet. It's an ideology that has ended up becoming just as toxic, hostile, infantilizing, and weaponized as any other used to harm those same communities. We should be making people like Officer Garcia grand marshals of Pride parades instead of telling them they're trauma-causing "shitlords" because they're not a social justice warrior stereotype.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.