Page 4 of 7
"That part hurt the most," Maria said, through tears. "It really struck a chord and showed their lack of sensitivity and their lack of training." The police report also refers to Kayla by her birth name, Xavier, and uses male pronouns.
The Copwatch report stated that this uncomfortable attitude toward Kayla's gender and body "may have played a critical role in the officers' decisions about how to respond or what first aid they were willing to provide when she stopped breathing."
"Kayla was dressed as a woman. She had her little moomoo on, her wrap around her head," Maria said. "Even if you're not sure of the gender, don't refer to someone who is dead as 'it.' It's just not okay." She said she questions whether the officers did everything they could to help revive her sister. "It makes me wonder, did they just not want to touch her lips? Did they just not want to touch it? I don't know."
According to Elysse Paige-Moore, Kayla's stepmother, the police report shows that Kayla felt frightened specifically because of officers' insensitivity to her transgender identity. "I don't think [Kayla's] reaction was strictly, 'I'm in physical danger.' Clearly, part of it was also, 'Who I am is in danger. I feel threatened by these people. No, I'm not safe. I'm not respected.'"
Jennifer Coats, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, refuted that notion. "One of our goals in the department is to make sure we treat everyone with respect and dignity," she said. "It's one of our core values. ... We treat you with respect regardless of your gender identity." She added that officers always try to use preferred gender pronouns and "address each individual as they want to be addressed."
But Louise Monsour, a licensed marriage and family therapist and director of clinical training at the Pacific Center in Berkeley, which provides mental health services for LGBT people and their families in Alameda County, said she has offered the Berkeley Police Department free trainings to ensure cops are sensitive and respectful when interacting with the LGBT community. "We were told that it wasn't really needed," said Monsour. "My experience is that there are very few large law enforcement agencies that are comfortable with the transgender community."
In response, Coats said all officers receive training in cultural diversity and discrimination in the police academy, and that the department has hosted LGBT trainings in the past. She confirmed that the Pacific Center has presented information on its training, and said the agency would be interested in doing something of this nature in the future.
Berkeley police also offers "crisis intervention training." Training coordinator Jeff Shannon said the program trains officers to "look for opportunities to de-escalate suspects. ... It's part of professionalism to use the least amount of force possible." He added that the goals of the program are to increase the safety of both suspects and officers, and to divert those with mental health challenges "away from the criminal justice system where they don't belong and back to the community for treatment." The class includes a section on LGBT and diversity issues and "awareness-building."
However, the courses are not mandatory. According to Shannon, only eighteen current police officers have taken crisis intervention training classes, and only seven of them work patrol.
None of those officers were at Moore's apartment the night of her death.
Growing up in South Berkeley, Kayla, then known as Xavier, was always very feminine. "It was never an issue [in the family]," Kayla's sister, Maria Moore, recalled. "When I was three years old, one of my fondest memories of Xavier was him in my nightgown I got for Christmas, walking around in it, looking so cute," she said. "He came out [as gay] when he was thirteen, but it wasn't a shock. He was in full drag at that time."
"My brother taught me how to put makeup on, taught me how to dance," added Maria, who is 39, two years younger than Kayla. Their father and stepmother, who still live in Berkeley, were always accepting of Kayla's sexuality and gender identity, she said.
Xavier transitioned to Kayla about fifteen years ago, Maria recalled. She took hormones regularly but ultimately decided not to undergo surgery. "She knew she was a girl," Paige-Moore, Kayla's stepmom, said. "Her core identity is that she is female."
But Kayla struggled with violence because of her transgender identity, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness, Maria said. She estimated that Kayla, who worked at times as a phone sex operator, was badly beaten at least several times a year.
"It's really alarming," she said. "So many times, Kayla would just come back [home] beaten to a pulp, because she had to fight off these guys. She was the victim of so much abuse. ... It was the relationships she got into or the assholes on the street. It just happened too many times." Maria said people often think of transgender women as drug addicts and sex workers relegated to the streets of San Francisco's Tenderloin district, and in a way, that neighborhood was sometimes the only place where Kayla felt safe or accepted.
According to Kayla's family, the daily threats of violence and discrimination contributed to Kayla's mental instability. "I don't know how anybody who identifies as transgender doesn't struggle with some stress disorders," Paige-Moore said. "Even though transgenderism is not a mental illness, it carries with it its own set of stresses."
Seven Days - September 23, 7:48 PM
Seven Days - September 23, 6:29 PM
Seven Days - September 23, 6:09 PM
Seven Days - September 21, 9:02 PM
Seven Days - September 20, 6:07 PM