Speaker after speaker in front of the Santee YMCA invoked right and wrong, “what is true and what is good,” as they denounced policies that allowed “grown men to parade around naked in women’s showers and locker rooms.”
Radio talker Carl DeMaio, with a large Bible at his feet Wednesday, berated the “child abuser” at the eye of the storm.
Among his 300 or so listeners: a 66-year-old retired county Health and Human Services Agency worker.
The Black woman, whose grandparents marched with Martin Luther King Jr., later stood before a smaller crowd 100 yards away — counterprotesting on behalf of transgender rights.
After praising the Cameron Family YMCA as a “magnificent organization” whose pool and classes helped her lose 60 pounds of post-COVID quarantine weight, she announced:
“I’m Christynne Lili Wrene Wood. I’m the scary transgender woman who that child misidentified as a man.”
A week after 17-year-old Rebecca Philips sparked headlines around the world with her complaint to the Santee City Council, the “adult male” thus revealed herself.
Dance Party Counterprotest
Minutes after breaking her silence via Channel 10 News, Wood (whose first name is pronounced KRIS-ten) reflected on her treatment by right-wing media and called out DeMaio.
She spoke to several dozen “dance party” people summoned by former congressional candidate Jose Cortés of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
“You’re the people we truly love,” Wood said. “And you’re the next generation to make those Neanderthals irrelevant.”
By then, the 35-minute rally organized by emcee Tracie Thill and her SanteeParents4Choice Facebook group had broken up.
The event — with dozens of sheriff’s deputies present but mainly acting to separate sides — saw some pushing and shouting matches near the pro-trans group. (Mike Forzano, who posted a threatening video on Facebook, reportedly had to work until 11 p.m.)
Pastor Mike Van Meter of Foothills Christian Church praised Philips.
“We pray for those who have been blinded by this spiritless age — who think they are standing for love and inclusivity — to see the rotten fruit of their ideology,” he said. “Save us from this madness.”
He repeated a theme of the night: “I just want to say to the YMCA: You’re doing it wrong.”
“We no longer feel safe or protected — or respected,” she said to cheers, declaring that family values were declining across the country.
Fight Over Rights
Foothills Church member Alex Nixon, among the crowd, echoed the rally’s themes about protecting “the rights of children.”
“They should accommodate everybody’s rights, not just transgenders but our kids who don’t want to be exposed to any sort of male genitalia,” she told Times of San Diego.
A man who gave only his first name — Dave — said he wasn’t offended by trans people, “but the girl has rights too. This is Santee, and we can’t be putting up with this.”
One speaker asked: “Is there some Bible out there that says: Thou shalt expose your children to naked adult males?”
The same speaker said a law firm had approached him about bringing a “landmark lawsuit” against the Santee YMCA.
“You can mutilate your bodies,” he said to cheers. “But when you come after our minor children, that’s when your rights stop.”
Said DeMaio: “It is wrong that the media and the politicians continue to try to normalize this deviant behavior.”
In the past, it would have led “an adult male in a girls’ bathroom” to be thrown behind bars, he said.
Wood was unbowed.
She calmly described what happened Dec. 29 in the Santee locker room, countering the teen’s narrative.
“This isn’t going to be as sensational as somebody’s going to want it to be,” Wood began.
“I did my water aerobics workout as I always do. I went in with the rest of my aqua sisters. We showered, I dried off, I dressed, I hugged my instructor. I hugged other women and said to all of you: I love you so much. See you next year, and I took off for Palm Springs to visit a friend. That’s it.”
She never saw the naked girl, who told Tucker Carlson on Tuesday she rushed back to the showers at the sight of Wood’s backside.
Returning in January, Wood got a phone call from one of her pool mates: “Oh my God, Kristin, I’m so sorry.”
Sorry for what? Wood asked.
“So you haven’t seen the video on Instagram?”
“What video?” Wood replied.
The friend said: “Oh my God, dear sister. Let me forward that to you.”
It was the first time she’d seen the now-viral City Council video.
Wood said Philips saw no male genitalia — as many outlets wrongly surmised — because she’s had gender confirmation surgery.
“I don’t know what’s in the mind of that child,” she told Times of San Diego.
She harkened to a 1955 case involving a 14-year-old boy visiting Mississippi from Chicago.
“So there’s a movie out right now about how that kind of a lie and hysteria can lead to tragedy,” Wood said. “The movie’s called ‘Till’ about Emmett Till. The lies of a person got that child beat to death and that’s just the kind of group [here] that would love to pull a stunt like that.”
She added: “Thank God, I’ve got protection and people with me that see to it that I don’t suffer that kind of pain. But don’t you think that there aren’t people over there right now that would love to come over and rip me piece to piece?”
Wood denied the Santee Y betrayed her by issuing apologetic statements to mollify Philips.
“God, no, no, no,” she said. “They have a very fine line to walk. And the point is — they can’t go out of the way to [be] preferential. But they know the truth.”
She said YMCA spokesman Dan Cruz appeared on KUSI last week with the intention of correcting the male-genitalia stories.
“He went there to dispel the lies. … He didn’t go there to talk about floor plans and shower curtains,” Wood said. But the penis accounts persisted.
Wood said she couldn’t love the Santee YMCA any more than she does now.
“The Y has been my social and physical home for physical fitness since I was 5” in Springfield, Ohio, she said. “I’m never going to leave them.”
The woman who won a 2021 settlement with another gym — which barred her from the women’s locker room — treasures her “aqua sisters,” who also go out for bagels every third Friday and celebrate birthdays and holidays together.
‘My Families Now’
“I’ve spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with the families of YMCA members, because my own blood families are so far away,” she said. “They’re my families now.”
But if she’d been asked by KUSI for an interview, she would have said: “No, I talk to legitimate news services. I don’t talk to you.”
But she’s sorry for the people at the Y “who’ve been inconvenienced about this. Who’ve only ever shown me love and acceptance.”
Her career included such caring.
Wood spent 29 years with the county — “working with the poor, the downtrodden” in the welfare-to-work program and children’s services.
“I even came back out of retirement for three months to help with COVID vaccinations,” she said — but not giving shots. “I was just Vanna White. I was the one out in front telling them: Go to this line and, honey, you go to this line.”
Wood said she heard Wednesday’s speakers and “read those filthy signs they had too.”
But she was unsurprised.
“Honey, please,” she said. She’d seen “that kind of hatred since the 2016 election and … that kind of bullshit since the 1994 Tea Party takeover of the House of Representatives. I’ve been expecting this.”
Once active in the El Cajon-based East County Democratic Club, Wood — “I used to be their chairperson of voter registration” — worked on the Obama presidential campaign.
Crowd Hero DeMaio?
She found it ironic that the Santee crowd would embrace DeMaio, a gay man.
“But then again, gay males and transgender women have not been friends ever,” she said. “You know, he came down and he yelled something untoward at us [while] doing a voter registration thing on Main Street in El Cajon.”
“And my comment was: About to lose another election?”
Wood said she began her gender transition in March 2016 while still working for the county.
“But everything necessary is done,” she said on a dark, chilly night. “And like I [say]: The biggest compliment a transgender woman can get is: ‘Wait, wait, what — you’re trans?’”
One of her friends is former sheriff’s candidate Dave Myers, who’s known her for over five years.
“It’s become too easy to hate, too easy to judge others without knowing, and too easy to demonize,” he said. “But Christynne isn’t. Knowing her reminds of a quote [by] Maya Angelou; ‘Life is full of second chances. When they come, be more intentional, courageous and appreciative.’
“Christynne is all of that and more. Be more like Christynne.”
But Wood doesn’t want to be defined by her trans status — a mere medical condition in her view.
“Actually I’m a woman,” she said. “You also like to know that I have to wear corrective lenses to drive? I also have degenerative scoliosis and type 2 diabetes.”
She called her medical conditions no big deal.
Her transition issues?
“I’ve handled them with hormones, which I’ll be on the rest of my life and I’ve handled them by two surgeries, one of which is completely irreversible and I’m fine with that,” she said. “That’s what I wanted.”
Asked what she’d say to media outlets that depict her as male, she said: “Lies always come back to hurt you.”
She returned to DeMaio — mocking the crowd as well.
“[They] had DeMaio up there on the stage,” she said. “It’s like: So you don’t mind that that queer male might be in the men’s locker room with your boys or your husband? That’s why his political career is deader than Julius Caesar.”
She said DeMaio’s career still has legs because he’s found “a new group to hate — the transgender.”
“Truly if I just walked past you, would you know I was trans? Well, there you go.”
The East County resident who said “social advocacy is in my familial DNA” offered a reason for outing herself publicly as the woman a teen girl mistook for a man.
“You know … somewhere out there is a closeted trans person, and I owe them the truth,” she said. “Give me your hand. I’m pulling you out into the light and I’m here with you.”