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Transgender Californian Says Attack on Her Was Hate Crime

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The San Luis Obispo woman says a group of men used slurs toward her before beating and kicking her.

A transgender woman was attacked by a group of men at a motel in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and she says the incident should be treated as a hate crime.

The woman, identified by The Tribune of San Luis Obispo only as "J," said she was confronted by several men earlier this month as she climbed the stairs leading to her room at a Super 8 motel. The men, who were drinking outside a room on the motel's second floor, made sexually charged comments to her, offered her money for sex acts, and called her the T word, she told the paper.

After one man became particularly aggressive, she splashed soda in his face. Then "he just started punching me and punching me in the face," J said. He also banged her head against the stairs and choked her, and eventually she blacked out, she said. When she regained consciousness, another man was trying to pull the first man off her but was also kicking her, she added. She finally escaped to the lobby, where hotel workers called 911.

"I literally thought I was going to die," she told The Tribune. "Some people are saying [online] that I assaulted him first [because of the soda], but I did not assault him -- any woman would do that to a man who talked to her like that." She said she was hospitalized for two days with a concussion and other injuries.

The San Luis Obispo police confirmed the attack took place and said one man, Dalton Montoya, 25, of Fresno, was cited for misdemeanor battery and released. The police have prepared a report for the San Luis Obispo County district attorney's office, which may bring other charges. J said the assault should be treated as a hate crime, as she believes it was motivated by the men's reaction to her gender presentation.

Michelle Call, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast, told The Tribune she had viewed surveillance video of the incident. "It's pretty clear to me from the video it was a pretty violent attack," she said.

J said she had mixed emotions about how the police handled the matter but appreciates that they are pursuing the case aggressively. Call praised the police response, saying relations with the LGBTQ community have improved under the department's new chief, Deanna Cantrell, as officers now receive training on dealing with the community and hold regular meetings with a variety of marginalized groups.

"This has been a really amazing ongoing collaboration," Call said. "It makes everything so much better."

And given the violence faced by transgender Americans, with 16 homicides so far this year, "we are just very fortunate [J] wasn't the latest statistic," Call added.

Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project's free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.

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