On Aug. 13, a transgender woman of Latina and Native American heritage was assaulted at a San Luis Obispo motel, and police launched an investigation to determine whether the incident was a hate crime.
New Times spoke with the assault survivor who asked to be referred to as "J" to conceal her identity, as the investigation is ongoing.
J said she was walking up a flight of stairs to her motel room when she noticed a group of men staring at her while making lewd and offensive comments and transphobic slurs.
"I overheard someone say 'tranny,' but I just said whatever," J said.
She dismissed the men but was triggered when one individual said he had money to give J so he could perform sexual acts on her.
"I said, 'Shame on you, that's very disrespectful. That's not how you talk to people, just because I'm different,'" she said.
The conversation escalated, and J said she had a drink from Taco Bell in her hand, so she removed the lid of the cup and threw the contents of the drink at one of the men.
The man, whose identity hasn't been released by police, responded to the action by tackling and punching J.
"He tried to throw me over the rail, and I was trying to push all my weight on him so he wouldn't throw me over. He was choking me, and I thought I was going to die. ... I couldn't breathe," she said, pausing to wipe away tears. "I stuck my nail in his eye, and that's when he let me go and left."
Jeff Smith, public information officer for the SLO Police Department, confirmed that the incident occurred and the suspect involved in the incident was arrested for battery.
He said the incident was an assault, but whether it was also a hate crime will be determined by the SLO County District Attorney's Office.
Michelle Call, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast (GALA), said representatives from GALA and Tranz Central Coast met with police investigators to encourage a thorough review of the case.
Smith said that often victims of hate crimes have a distrust for law enforcement and feel misunderstood as a victim of that specific crime. When GALA or Tranz Central Coast are made aware of these incidents, he said, the department appreciates their advocacies for the victim.
"We want to make sure everyone is treated with respect and all crimes are properly and thoroughly investigated," he said. "Without these open conversations we would be unable to address the concerns of the involved victim and hopefully gain their trust through this process." Δ