Only hours after the publication of our op-ed in the Voice of OC  demanding an end to the unjust prosecution of two transgender women, District Attorney Todd Spitzer published a response in which he announced that he had dropped the charges and then thanked us for bringing the issue forward. He even invited us to join his LGBT focussed Community Advisory Committee, an offer we are happy to accept because there is still so much more that needs to be done to guarantee LGBT equality and equity. 

Mr. Spitzer’s written response went to great effort to say that our words had “no bearing on [his] decision.” Many have questioned the credulity of this. 

The case had dragged on for more than 10 months of investigation, including five separate court proceedings and a July 14th OC Register article that raised serious questions of police and prosecutorial bias, before Spitzer intervened. The seemingly impossible coincidence that his announcement came only hours after we had argued for it in print is remarkable. 

Moreover, one wonders why Mr. Spitzer thanked us “for bringing forward a discussion on this issue” if it had no bearing at all on his decision. But for all that, we have no wish to argue with Mr. Spitzer. Rather, we seek greater dialogue with his office, with the Huntington Beach Police Department, and frankly, with every law enforcement agency in the county. 

Even where Mr. Spitzer’s statement questioned press reporting on the video evidence and sworn testimony, we remain open to dialogue with him, to hearing and discussing his interpretation of those facts, and to reviewing any salient evidence that may still be unknown to the general public.

More often than not, subconsciously biased heterosexual, gender normative majorities act with bias towards us. It’s this bias that keeps us constantly operating at a disadvantage, causes us to suffer great indignities and as was almost certainly the case here, subjects us to dangerously biased treatment from law enforcement. 

It’s this widespread, normalized implicit prejudice that caused the two victims of a violent hate crime to be treated as perpetrators, who in the opinion of biased police and prosecutors, acted not in self-defense but as the aggressors. It is this core problem that led officers to omit, if not intentionally suppress, every bit of evidence that didn’t fit their biases . . . as if it were ever likely that transgender people would travel to Huntington Beach to pick on its downtrodden, straight heterosexuals

Such bias is everywhere in our society. It’s what accounts for the extraordinarily high prevalence of homelessness, unemployment/underemployment, substance abuse, assault, and harassment among LGBT people, statistics that are many times magnified for women like these who are young, poor, and from racially disadvantaged groups. So yes, we want everyone who reads this to think about and work at reducing institutionalized, implicit bias wherever it exists and it exists everywhere. But for us, starting the dialogue with the law enforcement agencies that nearly imprisoned victims of hate is a pretty good place to begin. 

District Attorney Todd Spitzer and Huntington Beach Police Chief Harvey, and every other law enforcement officer in the county, should know that we welcome openness to talk about these issues. We must make the reforms necessary for LGBT folk to trust, rather than fear, the people who are supposed to protect us from, rather than join with, our tormentors. As we see here, our civil rights and freedom from unjust incarceration depend upon it. 

Stephanie Wade is a former Marine infantry officer and was one of the first transgender women to serve openly on a Congressional staff, having served former Congressman Cisneros as Veterans Liaison and Field Representative from January 2019 to January 2021. She resides in Anaheim and continues to be active in local politics, serving as President of the Orange County Veterans Democratic Club and as Co-Chair of the Lavender Democrats of Orange County.

Isabella Rubio is a professional political organizer who lives in Placentia and works as the Program Coordinator for the Orange County Bench Project, a progressive political action committee that supports candidates for local elected office. She also serves on the Central Committee of Orange County’s Democratic Party and as the Political Action Chair of OC’s Lavender Democratic Club.

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