Last updated on September 5, 2021, with reports that police have made an arrest for indecent exposure in connection to the Wi Spa incident. See Addendum.
An incident last month at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was raised in the comments to my statement yesterday regarding the transgender debate. I see discussion continuing today on Facebook. I think the matter can be instructive and is worth covering here.
On Thursday, June 24, supposedly a pre-surgery transgender woman undressed in the women’s changing area at Wi Spa whereupon other women and girls could see the person’s penis and testicles. A female spa client — “cubanaangel” on Instagram — complained vehemently to staff and posted a video of this confrontation on her Instagram account saying she was going “to take it very worldwide.”
Click to view on Instagram.
The video shows no transgender people and the spa states that none of its registered transgender clients had an appointment that day. There also appear to be no witness from inside the women’s changing room beyond Cubana Angel who filmed the video, according to the Blade, a Los Angeles gay paper, and the Advocate, a national gay paper. The Independent spoke with the Los Angeles Police about the incident and events after. The paper was not told of any corroborating witnesses. Slate reports that police are now treating the incident as a hoax.
It should be noted that businesses in Los Angeles are prohibited from discrimination against transgender people, including denial of service and public accommodations. This protection is covered under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code, Section 51(b).
I realize that settings like this, a women’s changing room, are flashpoints in the argument over transgender rights. I’m not addressing that here. My purpose today is to try and separate fact from rumor about the volatile June 24 incident at Wi Spa. Did it happen or not? It appears it did not. Only Cubana Angel can say why she did it.
Reaction & Protests
While the supposed incident appears to have been a provocative fabrication for anti-transgender propaganda purposes, the reactions afterward were quite real. Protesters on the pro- and anti-transgender sides came out and things got rough. NBC posted an article with a video showing some of the confrontations.
It appears that both sides engaged in physical violence that included two stabbings. A right-wing anti-transgender protester stabbed an LGBT activist in the leg, and also accidentally one of his fellow comrades.
I think most of my readers would agree that violence is not appropriate. Both sides have a right to protest — peacefully.
I think we’ve seen that the right is frequently inclined to violence or at least threat of violence. They like to show up in military gear with high-power weapons. We’ve also seen that some elements on the left are inclined to violence as well. Antifa and others came out during the George Floyd protests — and sucked the wind out what gave promise to be a powerful movement whose time had finally come. Violence is wrong on multiple levels, not the least of which is that it drives away actual and potential supporters and allies.
In this case especially, as transgender people are trying to get a foothold in public support, violence like this is poison. Too many people will scorn the entire transgender community because of the actions by a relative few.
A Previous Incident in January 2020
The Daily Mail this week has reported another incident that a woman says took place at Wi Spa in January 2020. The woman, going by only “Anita,” states that she was at Wi Spa with her 6-year-old daughter when they encountered a naked, bearded man in a women-only hot tub. She says she complained to management and the police but no action was taken.
I don’t know if this incident took place or not, but I’m inclined to give it more credibility as the complainant doesn’t appear to be politically motived like Cubana Angel. On the other hand, I can’t image any genuine transgender women choosing to sport a beard except perhaps at the very beginning of their transition, pre-hormone therapy.
If the bearded person was genuinely transgender, I think common courtesy in this case should have trumped exercising any technical right to use the hot tub. Otherwise either Anita isn’t telling the truth or Wi Spa allowed an obvious imposter to fake a transgender self-declaration.
Anita recounts her experience here, FYI.
In chronological order, from oldest at the top to newest.
July 15, 2021 – As reported by the Blade, rightwing forces are coalescing around the Wi Spa incident including religious fundamentalist street preachers, QAnon with its fake “Save Our Children” campaign, and the Proud Boys. Another anti-trans protest is being organized for this Saturday, July 17 outside Wi Spa. A post on Twitter shows these forces are conflating transgender rights with pedophilia, a classic trope aimed against the gay rights movement since Anita Bryant and before.
Meanwhile, the woman who made and posted the video that started all this, Cubana Angel, has opened a website to fight against the transgender community and California’s Civil Code, Chapter 51.
July 18, 2021 – Demonstrations took place again as promoted on Saturday, July 17, outside Wi Spa in Los Angeles. Reports indicate the Proud Boys were there. I saw signs about pedophiles and heard chants of “Save Our Children,” the fake QAnon campaign, on a rightwing video posted to YouTube. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, “LAPD Det. Meghan Aguilar said authorities declared the unlawful assembly after protesters began throwing projectiles, including at officers. Videos posted to social media show police in riot gear shooting bean bag rounds and 40-millimeter hard-foam projectiles at protesters.” Several dozen people were arrested.
A reporter for the Guardian tweeted that she “thrown to the ground by right-wing anti-pedophile protesters.” Her Twitter feed dated July 17 includes numerous video clips shot during and around the protest.
KABC-TV broadcast this report:
July 19, 2021 – I was able to locate the Guardian article cowritten by the woman I mentioned yesterday (immediately above the KABC-TV clip). Lois Beckett and Sam Levin report the goings-on at Saturday’s protest including various tweets containing video clips. The article also included this Guardian video:
Also today I spotted an article in The Militant that I had overlooked this weekend. The article asserts that the fight for transgender rights is a threat to women’s rights. I disagree and will circle back soon to address this question in a separate post.
August 7, 2021 – A friend alerted me to an article in Los Angeles Magazine published a week ago reporting that five women have filed formal police complaints “claiming to have seen male genitals exposed in the women’s section of the Wilshire Boulevard health club.” The article doesn’t say much else except to recap the whole controversy. Several other reports I find online regarding the filings are virtually identical to the Los Angeles Magazine article. I will update this space if I learn more.
September 5, 2021 – As reported by LGBTQ Nation, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Guardian and others, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) this week arrested Darren Merager, a registered sex offender, on five felony counts of indecent exposure. It now appears the incident was not a hoax, though reading through the coverage cited here it’s not clear whether Merager is a transgender woman. The LAPD report “alludes to Merager identifying as transgender,” per LGBTQ Nation, but police have not made any explicit statement specifying Merager’s gender identity. He also faces charges from an incident in 2018.
Andy Ngô interviewed Merager for the New York Post and appeared on Fox with Tucker Carlson.
KABC-TV in Los Angeles broadcast this report on Merager’s arrest.
Title image is a screenshot from NBC.
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