On any given day, Christine Garcia is prepared to respond to the worse.
With nearly nine years of service on the books with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), Garcia has worked every avenue of traffic policing, from neighborhood patrol to fatal accident investigations.
But, what most people don’t know, underneath the badge is a 32-year-old officer who has spent a majority of her life struggling with her identity. Garcia, a former high school wrestler, came out to the police department as being transgender in July 2015. In November, she began to make her physical transformation from Chris to Christine – reporting for duty as a female.
“I felt like I was Christine all along,” she said. “I am who I am.”
But, learning to be comfortable with who she really is, wasn’t easy.
“I would often sit there and think to myself, ‘If this is in my brain, if I was born this way, then I’m broken,’” she said. “I would constantly sit there and pick myself apart.”
It took years for her to feel comfortable enough to finally tell those around her. Her biggest barrier wasn’t telling her family, however, it was revealing the truth to her colleagues at the department.
‘Nothing but positivity’ from SDPD
As the only openly transgender police officer in San Diego, announcing her transition within the department was unprecedented.
“I didn’t know if I was going to lose complete respect from them [other officers],” she said. “Because here I was, going from masculine to feminine, in a primarily masculine profession.”
Unsure of where to start, she came out to Sergeant Daniel Meyer, the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender (LGBT) Community Liaison for the San Diego Police Department. Garcia said she was lucky to have a colleague, and friend, to help her navigate through unchartered waters.
“We wanted to make sure that we were doing everything we could to make sure her process was what she wanted it to look like,” said Meyer. The department took the necessary steps to ensure that Garcia had the resources and support she needed to make her transition.
“It was very inspiring for me – you know – I needed that support and it showed me that I could be here,” said Garcia.
After her announcement to the department, a flood of support from colleagues — some of whom she had never spoken to before — commended her for coming out.
“They said, ‘you know, you’re a good cop and the only thing that matters is that you’re a good cop,’” she said. “It put me as ease and I was able to see that I can be a cop and I can be transgender, and it’s really okay.”
In late 2015, the department implemented a training program for officers to learn more about the transgender community. Garcia was invited to teach a training class at the police academy and took part in the Chief’s Advisory Board to help determine how SDPD can better connect with community members. In 2016, she was promoted and now shares LGBT Liaison duties with Sgt. Meyer.
“I commend Christine for the bravery that she’s shown, and the willingness to adapt with her police department, and family, to make this a good environment for everyone,” said Meyer, noting that SDPD is a team and a family who sticks together, no matter what issue they may face.
Becoming a voice: SDPD and the LGBT Community
Over the past few months, Garcia has begun to work with Meyer to help others in the community who might be struggling with gender identity. She works closely with The Center — a place that she looked to for support and resources during her transition. Now, she’s hoping to offer that support to others.
“Really, Christine has become a voice for the transgender community,” said Meyer.
“Often times in the LGBT community, victims are really reluctant to contact police because they’re scared,” said Meyer. “We’ve done a good job of bridging that gap and working really closely with the LGBT community center.”
The Center, a local organization for members of the LGBT community, works in partnership with SDPD to make San Diego a safer place. As the nation’s second oldest and one of the largest LGBT centers, it offers counseling and testing, among other services, to clients. Last year, it provided more than 60,000 service visits to community members, 12 percent of those clients being transgender individuals.
Meyer and Garcia have attended discussion groups at The Center to let the community know that they can find support from the San Diego Police Department. Garcia hopes that by becoming more involved with The Center, members of the LGBT community will feel more comfortable speaking to police. Her goal, moving forward, is to remind members of the community to not be discouraged by “the way society has presented itself so far” and to show others that self-acceptance goes a long way.
“There’s a transgender member in a professional organization somewhere,” Garcia said. “We’re here, setting this path and example for you to be able to take over these roles.”
“I’m transgender and I’m a police officer,” she said. “You can be anything that you want to be.”
The City is an equal employment opportunity employer and strives to comply with all applicable laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, religion, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, veteran status, marital status, medical condition, gender (transsexual or transgender), sexual orientation, as well as any other category protected by federal, state, or local laws. [San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 2, Article 3, Division 17, section 23.1701; Council Policy 000-12; City of San Diego EEO Policy, sec 1-2, 4].