athletic women, Bruce Jenner, Changing room, complainant, complaint, dignity, Dr. Christine McGinn, Dr. Oz, feminine, fishbowl, Gender Identity, guest, Gym, Kristen Beck, Lady Valor, lawsuit, masculine, media frenzy, membership, Michigan, microscope, Midland, modest, muscle development, Planet Fitness, policy, protection, rumor, sensationalism, speculation, support, supportive wife, talk show, tiny minority, Trans woman, Transgender, warning, Yvette Cormier
I’ve moved into the heart of my tax season and I am not able to post as often or as much in depth on one topic. So this will be a round-up of two recent topics that have come to my attention.
Recently it was reported that a Planet Fitness located in Midland, Michigan had supported a transgender woman’s right to be in the woman’s locker room in their facility. When another female member complained about her presence, the staff on duty explained that she had a right to be there. When that didn’t satisfy the complainant, they eventually terminated her membership.
It should be noted that each Planet Fitness location is franchised. But I know that this is the same policy that is followed at the Planet Fitness where I am a member (and where I desperately need to start going to again … after tax season). According to a news story on the WTNH-8 News website, the Midland location has a nice feature that is also present at my location: the availability of private changing stalls. And of course, their bathroom stalls have doors.
I never completely undress in the locker room. I generally arrive wearing the gear in which I will do my workout. Especially in winter, I will take off outer clothing (coat, sweater, scarf and gloves), and change from boots to gym shoes. I am quite modest and have no desire to shock anyone or cause problems. And when I was attending regularly, there were no complaints about me. I received no dirty looks or stares, whether in the locker room, the main floor during a workout, or in the women’s bathroom (almost always there at the end of the workout to comb and brush my hair). I go there alone and have never seen anyone there who I know, so it is not like I am surrounded by a phalanx of supporters. Any time anyone has referred to me, they have always used female pronouns in a friendly, respectful tone of voice. I had one woman approach me in the bathroom one day to ask me if I would recommend the facility. (I did.) My heart soared when that happened!
Now in the immediate wake of the story, much misinformation was spread by those who opposed Planet Fitness’s policy and decision at the Midland location (which was backed by Planet Fitness’s corporate headquarters). Here are some examples:
Charge: The transwoman was not a member and had less right to be there than the member who complained.
Fact: The transwoman was a guest of a member. People with a certain level of membership have the right to bring guests. It is a smart business policy in the hopes that the guests will like the experience and sign up for membership of their own. As a guest of a member, she had just as much right to be there.
Charge: The complaint was made because the transwoman was in the locker room letting it all hang out, undressing in front of the other women there.
Fact: The transwomen was wearing a baggy shirt and leggings and not undressing or changing. She used the locker room to store her coat and purse and then retrieve them after she finished her workout. None of the other women present had a problem with her being in there. Neither did the complainant make that charge. Her only complaint to the front desk and to those further up the corporate ladder was that she looks like a man.
Charge: She looks like a man and therefore doesn’t belong in the women’s locker room.
Fact: First of all, I know that this is not a Gold’s Gym or other hardcore bodybuilding gym. Even so, this is a place where some people go to increase strength, train for athletic competition and build muscle. Some cisgender women who train at intense levels over long periods of time can begin to look more masculine, especially if they use certain drugs to enhance their development. At the extreme level, I have seen pictures of female bodybuilders who look more masculine than at least 80% of the adult male population.
In addition, I have seen a picture of the transwoman in question. She looks as feminine to me as many women I see in the local grocery store. In some pictures she looks more feminine than in others. That is true for many women. Those people who want to put her in the worst possible light will use the old tactic of choosing the worst possible picture of her. Some of them have also dredged up information from her private life that had no relation to her legitimate interest in working out at a gym. Nor was it related to the complaint or known by the complainant.
Charge: Planet Fitness should warn prospective members of their transgender inclusive policy.
Fact: Planet Fitness’s policies are available for anyone who wants to take the time to read them. But transgender people are not a class of people who the rest of the public needs to be protected from. We are people who generally need protection from hateful, bigoted and sometimes violent people.
There is another reason why it is not incumbent upon Planet Fitness to give more attention to its transgender inclusive policy. We are simply not a large group. Despite the fears of some, we are not a growing horde taking over the country or the world. We are a tiny percentage of the population. I would not be surprised to find that the vast majority of Planet Fitness locations do not have any transgender members. (To my knowledge, Planet Fitness does not keep such statistics. When I called to confirm that I would indeed be welcomed there, they did not ask me to check a “transgender” box on their enrollment form.) The chance of anyone running into a transwoman in the woman’s locker room at Planet Fitness is practically nil. (Although it may increase now; many in the transgender community thank those of you who brought their wonderful policy to our attention.)
Charge: The complainant was dropped from the membership rolls because she complained.
Fact: The Planet Fitness in Midland did not have a problem with this member’s initial complaint. At times, I complained about certain things (such as the lack of five pound weights to add onto the stack of weights on a machine). My complaints were always listened to with polite respect. The complainant’s membership was canceled because she was waging a one-woman protest against the policy at and near to the facilities location, disrupting the activities of other members in violation of the membership agreement.
Thank you Planet Fitness. You are providing more than a “no judgment zone”. You are providing a safety zone for women like me.
Follow up: The complainant, Yvette Cormier, filed a lawsuit against Planet Fitness on March 23, approximately three weeks after her membership was revoked.
Dr. Oz Interview:
On Wednesday, March 11, Dr. Oz featured an interview with a transwoman, Tina, who is living full-time as a female, her wife and one of their daughters. Dr. Christine McGinn, the plastic surgeon who treated Tina, also made a brief appearance.
First off, let me say that this is the first time I have ever watched the Dr. Oz program. (I watch almost no current television.) So I have no comment on any other aspect of his program or beliefs or claims. But I thought that he treated the people who he interviewed with dignity. This was not the sensational talk show treatment that I saw years ago from Geraldo, Maury Povich and others of that genre. And it is light years from the horrible spectacles offered on the Jerry Springer show.
Yes, there was a bit of a shameless tie-in to Bruce Jenner with the promo of the show and the episode title. (The episode does not deal with Jenner’s situation at all.) But whether Dr. Oz was personally responsible for the decision to exploit the name, it was a group decision, or the responsibility rests with someone else, I understand the need to attract an audience and generate ratings.
More importantly, it was wonderful to see a couple that had weathered the painful part of transition and have stayed together. Tina’s wife is frank about how difficult this was for her. But she decided that because she loves Tina as a person, she would rather have Tina, even if in some sense she has lost the person she married, than to lose that person completely. It was a positive, heart-warming story.
I highly recommend watching the episode. You will need to bear with the fact that it is somewhat choppy because of commercial breaks (all the same commercial). And the interview does not take up the entire episode. When it switches to the segment on dealing with back pain (followed by one on higher protein, reduced carb pancakes), the transgender segment is over.
I mentioned that Dr. Oz tied his interview of Tina to a name that has many on the Internet abuzz with rumor and speculation. Why have I not commented on Bruce Jenner’s story? Primarily because people have the right to make their own statement about their identity and their path in life. Until I hear or read that, there is nothing to comment on. And even then, I might find nothing noteworthy to comment on.
However, I will say at this time that it is difficult for anyone to transition in our culture, even if the attitudes of many are becoming more favorable. I can imagine that it would be far more difficult to do so in the fishbowl of media feeding frenzies. If nothing else, it will make it difficult to focus on one’s own feelings and emotions as one adapts to the newness of living life in the gender opposite to which a person was assigned. I believe I saw some of this sort of thing causing a problem for Kristen Beck as her story was told in the CNN special, “Lady Valor.” The media attention towards Jenner would have been many times greater, even had the specter of a wrongful death lawsuit were not working. That lawsuit will only raise the power of the magnifying glass even higher.
All that I have written in this post is important to some. What is celebrated today, Resurrection Sunday, makes the following important to all:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. – 1st Corinthians 15:20-26
May the blessings of Easter be your blessings, today and always,