By: Roselyn Poommai
LOS ANGELES – LAPD officers in riot gear were forced to intervene on July 3, 2021, as a demonstration over transgender rights violently escalated among the crowd, but sources say the original incident may have been staged.
The July 3rd demonstrations were triggered by an earlier clip posted by Instagram user @cubanaangel, captioned, “The Wi Spa allowed the man access just because he calls himself a woman…What is our world coming to.” In the video, she confronted a Wi Spa employee about a woman-identifying client who disrobed in the women’s section of the spa.
The user can be heard exclaiming, “It’s okay for a man to go into the women’s section, show his p*nis around the other women, young little girls underage? Your spa condones that – is that what you’re saying?”
She also repeatedly asserted that the client was “a man” and labeled her spa experience as “traumatizing.”
“As a woman, I have a right to feel comfortable without a man exposing himself. He’s not a transgender. He has a p*nis.”
After a bystander approached her and asked whether she was referring to a transwoman, she argued that “there is no such thing as transgender,” and later added, “It must be hard not being a real man, huh? Try it.”
Other women clientele sided with her, demanding a refund from the spa and claiming it would have similarly been uncomfortable for men if female “anatomy” was exposed in the men’s section of the business.
The recorded Wi Spa employee defended the transgender woman calmly and reiterated that they stand by the spa’s gender-inclusive policy, which follows California’s law prohibiting discrimination based on gender expression.
In a proceeding statement by Wi Spa, the business further vocalized that it “strives to meet the needs of all its customers, and does not tolerate harassment or lewd conduct by any customer, regardless of their sex, gender, or other characteristics.”
However, the dispute did not end after the initial video, which quickly gained traction and has now garnered more than 166,000 views and 4,000 comments ranging from praise to criticism for the Instagram user.
Days after the video was uploaded, protestors opposing the spa’s policy were met with demonstrators from a “No Bigotry in L.A.” rally supporting transgender rights along Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Several protestors against the spa’s policy identified themselves as allies for women’s and children’s rights. Additionally, the group was seen displaying slogans against transgender rights and the LGBTQ+ community on their shirts and signs. Both sides grew verbally and physically aggressive as they vigorously defended their stance on transgender rights, some even brandishing weapons.
In a viral Twitter clip uploaded by a self-identified advocacy journalist, a man sporting an American flag bandana is seen pulling a gun from a backpack. When asked what he retrieved, the man responded that the gun was “something to shoot you with.”
Another clip showed a protestor waving objects in his hands, yelling, “God cursed all of you. You guys are abominations” at the anti-protestors, and advocates for transgender rights. He then violently swung his right hand at the crowd before being handled by an LAPD officer.
The police struggled to keep the demonstrations under control until LAPD Officer Frank Lopez declared it an unlawful assembly in the afternoon, and demonstrators were ordered to disperse. Lopez confirmed that of the five reported injuries during the protest, three victims were subject to assault and battery, and the other two were to assault with a deadly weapon.
Amidst the ongoing investigation into the incident, Blade, an LGBTQ publication in Southern California, most recently speculated that anti-trans groups might have staged the original video.
Doubt among law enforcement and Wi Spa staff rose as multiple anonymous LAPD sources and the spa’s appointment guest list have been unable to confirm the presence of any transgender client on the day of the incident. Additionally, no other witnesses have come forward to uphold the allegations made by the Instagram user.
Blade claims that it has not been the first time that Wi Spa has been targeted for their gender-inclusive services.
While the investigation continues, the events resemble only a sliver of the ongoing movement for transgender rights. Just last week, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal from a conservative Virginia school board, which marked impactful resistance against transgender discrimination and a victory for other trans students across the nation.
Roselyn is a third-year student at the University of California, Irvine earning her B.A. in Psychological Science and B.A. in Criminology, Law & Society. Her enthusiasm for law and psychology leads to her interest in the underlying complexity of human behavior in the criminal justice system.