Planet Fitness and Cis Tears

CN: transantagonism, discussion of hypothetical sexual assault/rape

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The internet has been abuzz over this thing that happened:

[…] a Planet Fitness gym in Midland, Michigan revoked the membership of a woman who complained that the trans woman she was sharing a locker room with looked too much like a man.

Of course, this event has stirred up a bunch of conversation around whether trans people (often trans women) should have access to certain gendered spaces, namely bathrooms and locker rooms. Trans people and allies are basically of the opinion that it’s no big deal to let people pick the bathroom that’s appropriate for them and cis people need to shut the hell up about it. The opposition centers around how it can make (cis) women uncomfortable, and how there’s a chance that (cis) men could dress as women any time they wanted to gain access to these spaces and maybe attack the cis women.

It occurred to me recently that if a cis dude wanted to dress as a woman to enter a gendered restroom, he would have to a) pack the clothes and change into them right before entering the bathroom, risking detection by anyone paying attention, or b) wear the clothes out in public on the way to his dirty deed of peeking or whatever. (Which–if peeking is what you’re worried about–would mean that any cis women attracted to women would also not be allowed in the women’s room. Just saying.)

Does anyone realize that cis men would have to be willing to put themselves in the position of a trans woman in order to accomplish this particular act of subterfuge? If they walked around dressed as women but still visibly male, they would literally be putting themselves at risk for the kind of violence that trans women face, just for the sake of gaining access to a women’s room. They would also be even more likely to be stopped before entering the restroom, or to have someone contact management about their presence since they wouldn’t have been doing any of the regular feminizing routines that many trans women maintain.

It also occurs to me to mention that, though I’m not a criminal psychologist, I suspect the type of guy who would attack women in a public restroom would probably just walk in and do it without the preamble of dressing as a woman. And claiming to be a trans woman isn’t going to nullify those sexual assault charges anyway.

On that thought, there are trans women who rape people. There are also cis women who rape people. Making public facilities accessible to trans people isn’t going to generate rapists where there weren’t any, no matter what their gender is. Not to mention that most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows personally, not random strangers in bathrooms.

Trans women are at risk for violence just like cis women are at risk, let’s not forget. Preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms is going to force them to go into men’s rooms, where they will be at greater risk of harassment or violence. I don’t mean to diminish the fact that violence against cis women from cis men is a huge problem, but cis men are not trans women, and taking away trans people’s access to certain gendered facilities isn’t going to stop or even deter that violence. It’s just discriminatory and othering, and is going to put more trans people at risk of harassment and possibly arrest since so many places are trying to codify laws restricting restroom use.

Bringing this back around to the Planet Fitness thing, the cis woman who complained did so because she thought there was a man in the locker room. The trans woman was reportedly wearing leggings and a baggie t-shirt, but she acknowledges that her body appears masculine from behind. Although, she has breasts and was carrying a purse… Point being, I’ve seen people arguing “But how can we tell if they’re trans and not just a dude in the ladies’ room if they aren’t wearing hyperfeminine clothing and haven’t been taking hormones?” To that I say, fuck you. Hormones cost money, and so do those feminizing routines I mentioned earlier. Let’s not pretend that standards of attractiveness aren’t being used to gatekeep trans women from accessing women’s spaces.

And to anyone who thinks that Planet Fitness responded too strongly by revoking the cis woman’s membership, I give you this:

She returned to the gym Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday “to get the word out” to other women that they “let men in the women’s locker room,” she said.

“Every day I said ‘just so you know, there’s a man they allow in this locker room and they don’t tell you that when you sign up,’ ” she said.

And also this:

Cormier said she then got a call from Planet Fitness’ corporate office telling her that she was violating their “no judgement” policy. She says they asked if she was going to stop talking to other women in the locker room and she said she would not.

Cormier said the representative told her she was no longer welcome at the gym.

This cis woman was aggressively returning to the gym specifically to ‘warn’ other members of the gym that Planet Fitness allows people to use the locker room suited to their gender identity. She was causing a disruption and creating an unsafe environment for trans people. Planet Fitness prides itself on being a no-judgment zone and she was clearly creating a judgmental environment by enflaming her fellow cis women. It makes perfect sense that they revoked her membership. And now she’s suing Planet Fitness for something like $25,000, so we’ll see how that goes.

In trying to come up with solutions to these bathroom debacles, some people have proposed making additional facilities for trans people or making all single-stall bathrooms gender-neutral, or even making all bathrooms gender-neutral, period. Here’s a Laci Green video talking about some of that:

I agree with Laci that making separate facilities for trans people is kinda separate-but-equal-y. Which is not good. I see no reason why all single-stall restrooms shouldn’t be gender-neutral, and I have seen “family” restrooms available, which seems perfectly reasonable. I’m also not particularly opposed to having all multi-stall restrooms be neutral as well, except for having cleaned men’s bathrooms before and they are.. not pleasant. Maybe we’d need to simultaneously introduce the concept of cleaning the bathroom after ourselves, like they do in French airports.

Ultimately, we need to collectively mind our own business and let people determine for themselves which bathroom they need to piss in. FFS.

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Planet Fitness and Cis Tears
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28 thoughts on “Planet Fitness and Cis Tears

  1. 1

    On the note of gender-neutral bathrooms:

    My college (Hampshire College) has exclusively gender-neutral bathrooms, some with urinals some without. They’re labelled by whether or not they have urinals in (so as to avoid gendering the bathroom). Also, some of the bathrooms have locks available for people who need privacy.

    The bathrooms are surprisingly clean and they’ve been without problems for the most part. So much for gender-neutral chaos and cis men being jerks more than usual.

    1. 1.1

      My first college (University of California at Santa Cruz) had mostly gender-neutral bathrooms in the dorms (with the exception being women-only bathrooms on women-only floors); I don’t remember any urinals. Individual shower stalls had curtained-off changing areas between the shower itself and the public area. All restroom and shower room facilities were certainly cleaner than men’s restrooms I’d used; it probably helped that one of the first topics to come up in a hall meeting was “I don’t know who’s doing this, but if you’re going to pee while standing up, please pick up the seat and then wipe down any spatter afterwards.” People got the hint.

      Then again, that was a school that made a point of trying to be (and had a reputation for being) LGBT-friendly. There was probably some self-selection going on; people who will freak out about sharing space with trans folks probably won’t be as likely to show up in T-friendly spaces in the first place. The Planet Fitness case might, unfortunately, represent a more popular transphobic attitude.

  2. 2

    I remember some swimming pools in Canada having third changing rooms for families, but I’m sure the same mentalities as Cormier’s would rear their heads and object to people using them. I’ve been away a long time so I don’t know how common such facilities are anymore.

    Regarding construction, another option might be single person facilities. Rooms for one person including a shower, toilet and changing area might be cost prohibitive but might address all the concerns.

    I suspect the type of guy who would attack women in a public restroom would probably just walk in and do it without the preamble of dressing as a woman

    Or do something equally pervy like hide a camera, which is a risk with gender-neutral bathrooms. That’s been done many times in various places by staff (e.g. schools, gyms, workplaces), never mind by male patrons sneaking in.

  3. 3

    It also occurs to me to mention that, though I’m not a criminal psychologist, I suspect the type of guy who would attack women in a public restroom would probably just walk in and do it without the preamble of dressing as a woman. And claiming to be a trans woman isn’t going to nullify those sexual assault charges anyway.

    On that thought, there are trans women who rape people. There are also cis women who rape people. Making public facilities accessible to trans people isn’t going to generate rapists where there weren’t any, no matter what their gender is. Not to mention that most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows personally, not random strangers in bathrooms.

    All of this. Of course, I don’t understand gender-segregated restrooms at all, given that stalls exist (and if we’re worried about urinal privacy, dividers are already a thing). I can understand the concern about changing rooms slightly more, though I can’t really relate to it, as I’m largely gender-indifferent. As you point out, concerns over peeping should render even single-gender communal changing spaces non-existent due to the existence of same-gender-attracted people. I actually think the concern is likely more over the potential perceived threat that male-bodied (and perhaps some intersex) people present to others: as sexual arousal in male-bodied and some intersex people tends to be more obvious than in female-bodied or other intersex people, visible erections indicative of sexual arousal may be perceived as a threat by people living in a rape culture, particularly those people who belong to groups most often targeted by rapists. Even so, I think the proper response is to, say, have attendants in communal changing rooms (perhaps somewhere they can hear people easily but not necessarily constantly see everyone) for quick response in the case of any actual assault attempts (by someone of any gender against someone of any gender – as noted, in practice, trans* people are far more likely to be assaulted, and such attendants would likely actually function to protect trans* people from harassment or assault more than they would actually need to protect cis people), not to ban people from changing rooms (or even to necessarily have gender-segregated changing rooms in the first place, though our misogynistic rape culture may be too deeply ingrained at the present to be able to safely integrate – overt leering, for example, would be difficult to prevent or police, and can be extremely threatening even without other action).

    At any rate, complaining on the basis that one thinks someone of the ‘wrong’ gender is in the room is ridiculous – even if the trans woman in question had been a man, if she wasn’t actually engaging in any kind of threatening behavior, I’m not sure what the problem is supposed to be. I’ve been at countless concerts and sports games and festivals where women skip the wait for the women’s bathroom and go into the men’s room. and I’ve never once seen anyone give a damn about the mere presence of a woman, even at places with trough urinals without dividers. The only time anyone cared was once when a very drunk woman came in and grabbed some guy’s butt – she was immediately marched out by two other guys. While I do understand why some women might feel more threatened by people they perceive to be men than most men are going to feel by people they perceive to be women, I still think that it’s ultimately the behavior and not the gender that matters. Ultimately, we need to find a way to deal with the potential threat of rapists or assaulters or harassers without throwing entire categories of people under the bus.

  4. 5

    The whole issue with bathrooms is where many libertarians (my noble self included) part ways with left-wingers -ideologically speaking- with regards to transgender people and the treatment thereof. By all means let us make publicly owned facilities such as those at police stations or legislative offices available to all, irrespective of gender identity or biological details. People such as those this issue concerns are as bound by the laws of their nations as we are, and should thus receive equal access to governmentally administrated lavatorial installations.

    The intellectual schism however, occurs when one considers the state of private facilities. If the owners of such a convenience elect, as those in the “Planet Fitness” case did, to allow the entire menagerie of human variation to access their lavatorial provisions, so be it. If however, they elect not to, that must also be -in the enlightened opinion of this humble internet denizen- be respected, and not used as a basis to enact legal persecution upon them.

    This may well be inconvenient to those members of the public who are not of a cisgender demographic; requiring them to wear adult nappies, drink fewer fluids or simply avoid such establishments altogether. Such nuisances are of course lamentable, as are the antiquated attitudes that lead to them, that being said: we must recall that the purpose of civilization is not to ensure satisfaction to the majority, but rather to guarantee that the freedoms of the individual to do as they will with that which is theirs is not violated.

    Unfortunately, many advocates of the (in theory, virtuous) notions of universal inclusion fail to see this nuance, as the reaction to my asks Here and Here demonstrate.

    1. 5.1

      Meggamat, I’m gonna have to point you to the civil rights movement and segregation of black and white drinking fountains, among other things, because the amount of wrong there is too much for me to explain.

      Also, Zinnia is pretty obviously being the sarcastic asshole we all know and love her to be. She’s striking back at oppressors by proposing ridiculous ideas so they know what it feels like to be in the position she’s in. And actually, her second response is calling back to the same thing I mentioned–racial segregation. There’s already an established history on this topic, just newly applied to trans folks.

      1. I am aware that there is precedent, it is simply precedent I disagree with. Don’t misunderstand me, the “Jim Crow” laws were bad laws, and getting rid of them was good, but outright banning people from practising discrimination in, say: restaurant clientèle, went too far in my opinion. Anyone who banned clients on the basis of racial heritage is a jerk, but it is possible to be a jerk and still act within ones’ rights. The same is true of this issue. I don’t agree with the actions of people who ban transgender people from using the lavatorial facilities that they feel most reflects their identities, but I also do not support criminalizing such behaviour. As I said, here is where I part way’s with many leftists, an action can be wrong but not criminal.

        1. So, imagine me, a trans person, on a road trip. I stop at the only gas station in a 100 mile radius only to find that they won’t let me use the bathroom. Or say I live in a small town and all the businesses there prevent trans people from using the restrooms. The environment that creates for trans people is, in my opinion, unacceptable, and I don’t think we can depend on the free market to adequately punish such businesses. Is it really preferable to allow discrimination at that scale, or to find some punitive measures which would probably result in fines for business owners who can’t manage to serve everyone equally?

          1. I agree that the hypothetical scenario you described is sub-optimum, but the same inconvenience would occur if all of the petrol/gas (sorry, transatlantic terminology) stations in the area decided to close down (which you presumably agree they have a right to do). Should there be a law mandating that at least one such installation exist per every X square km? Or do you simply rely upon the free market, rather than the invading fingers of governmental overreach to achieve these ends? Please don’t misunderstand me, I take no joy from the inconvenience dealt to transgender people by the bigotry of others. But allowing the state to further abridge the freedoms of people who have done no violence, even in the name of something so noble as equality, is fraught with moral compromises and the potential for dystopian consequences.

  5. 6

    Hi Zinnia. I recently found out that some of trans people and their allies on states have not heard about ‘cissexism’. I was quite shocked for i thought that this is social justice 101 stuff. What is your experience with this term? Also, will you go to TTA podcast again? I think that issue of peoples right to change their mind is really important and needs to be addressed more and you could have prime opportunity to speak about it since you last time told that you are gay man.

  6. 7

    I totally recommend people getting over themselves and getting more used to gender neutral spaces. It actually promotes civilized, respectful, behavior rather than the opposite.

  7. 9

    Meggamat’s argument works just as well for racial segregation. Which is why we know we have tried such systems of allowing private discrimination in the past and have found them unacceptable. Unfortunately some classes are not protectected yet under federal law, but such discrimination is certainly no more moral than haveing separate facilities for races.

    1. 9.1

      It may not be moral, but is it a good enough reason to use the full force of the law on people who do so? Especially in america, criminalizing something is no small matter, people get killed by the police on the suspicion of even the smallest crimes. Laws are coercive by nature, and should not be used without good reason. If I vote for a politician I know to be corrupt or bigoted, it is arguably an immoral action, but not a violation of anyone’s rights, and therefore not worthy of criminalization.

        1. You need to consider the all important factor here context. Luxander Pickel, Heather Mcnamera, Trinity Pixie and the main author of this part of freethought blogs are all from the post-colonial nation of the USA. In one of that fine land’s most populous and iconic metropolises: “New York” a man was fatally asphyxiated by law officers in the recent past. His alleged crime? The arguably minor offence of selling cigarettes without proper adherence to municipal taxes. The peelers wo diligently roam the streets of this sceptred Isle may be renowned for their moral rectitude, self restraint and high adherence justice; in the land of the Eagle? Less so.

          1. I love your posts for all the wrong reasons, keep on tippin’ bro. 🙂

            but in an ill fated attempt to engage your faulty argument, I get the feeling that the majority of the police brutality such as you describe is directed at the oppressed classes, e.g. ethnic, sexual and gender minorities, those who are on low incomes, etc.

            In this case, it is unlikely in my mind that owners of gym franchises, who I would expect are rather well off, are going to be on the receiving end of Judge Dredd style justice, particularly if the law being enforced is designed to protect one of those categories mentioned above. I’m sure prison statistics and the recent case of the Zimmermann trial back up the US’s (and a number of other nations, our own included) lack of interest in protecting the rights of people who are not cishetmalewhitemiddleclass.

          2. Consider, Dear That Guy, what is meant by the term “oppressed classes”.

            The following criteria, you would agree, must all be true:

            ● They are a specific, identifiable group (A), for example wealthy people or Roma people.
            ● They exist alongside another such group (B), such as Bolsheviks or National Socialists.
            ● Group B imposes it’s will upon group A.
            ● Group A does not consent or approve of this imposition.
            ● The aforementioned imposition restricts the liberty of group A to do as they please in some manner (Z).
            ● Z does not in and of itself impose upon the rights of either group B, or some third group (C).

            in this case:
            group (A): small business owners in the Land Of The Eagle
            group (B): left-wing authoritarians, affiliated with Illuminati think-tanks such as the Bilderberg group, sworn to oppose freedom.
            group (C): Transgender people. (not to imply that none of these groups overlap)
            action (Z): Restriction of access to privately owned lavatorial installations on the basis of organic apparatus.

            Do I not speak the plain and simple truth?

            The oppressed are not in this instance (C), for C does not own the facilities in (A)’s establishment. It would be no more reasonable than for me two ride my Segway into a local library or tavern and demand that the proprietor allow me to charge my electronic steed using one of their power sockets. If they Assent, all well and good. If not, then that prerogative too, is theirs to take. Wherefore treat you differently; the issue at hand?

          3. Is there a twitter or a tumblr or something I can read a stream of your comments? I don’t feel that having them in context adds much to their value, and it seems needlessly wasteful to derail comment threads on articles about serious issues for more of your fedora gold.

            Also, at the topic at hand, segways are not a biological necessity. Toilets are, (the adult nappies suggestion is not worth discussing), and the suggestion that individuals should be barred from facilities based on the ‘owner’s’ prejudices creates a roundabout method of barring individuals at all. Coming back to the original story, how can someone be expected to use a gym without changing rooms? If the owner bars all people with blonde hair or piercings or whatever from facilities that are more than likely a necessity for people at the establishment (e.g. toilets at a pub or bar) doesnt this amount to discrimination? Shouldn’t it then be illegal? Unless the crux of your argument (which I sense it is) is that owners of services should be allowed to discriminate on whatever grounds they please.

            (This is leaving aside required safe spaces such as shelters or women’s only gyms etc which is a whole other kettle of fish that I am not qualified to discuss)

          4. Aha, so you acknowledged my refutation that group (C) is oppressed and instead address the (quite different) concept of discrimination. I would answer that this so called discrimination is simply an evening out of the playing field, giving group (A) equal rights.

            First ask if the following are true:

            ● Rights govern the way in which entities may interact (in a default state that is, of course people can negotiate away their rights as long as no coercion is involved) and thus can be expressed using the predicate R(a,b,x) Where x is some interaction, and a,b are entities (or groups of entities acting in concert) and a instigates some interaction with b.

            ● Civilizations have an obligation to ensure equal rights, thus R(a,b,x) => R(b,a,x).

            If we agree that they are true, let us then address another question: are transgender people obliged to visit any specific private establishments? if not, then they are free to choose which establishments they may attend, (if any) and when within said establishments, which facilities they may avail themselves of (unless some contract with the establishment owner establishes otherwise, E.G a seasons pass to a specific theme park ride). In other words, a right, one valid instance of which is as follows:

            ●R(C,A,X) where X is decision of whether or not to make use of a small business’ lavatorial installation.

            From the axioms thus far established, we can derive the following:

            ●R(A,C,X) Therefore A only has equal rights (I.E the right of refusal, just as C can refuse to enter a given restaurant, tavern or ping-pong stadium) if they can decide who may enter their bathrooms.

            If a member of A, let us call him λ decides that [Men = the set of people wearing blue hats] and that [Women = the set of people wearing pink hats], then segregates admittance to certain parts of his ice-skating rink based upon that, so be it. They will likely lose customers and the invisible hand of the market will restore order. It is not our place to tell λ that he cannot do this, just as λ has no right to demand that you or I visit said rink.

            I hope this has clarified the issue somewhat.

            PS:- Are you a hatter by trade, or is your headwear obsession a hobby?

  8. 10

    Talk about “turn about is fair play” ! The cis bully got exactly what she wanted — she is no longer forced to share a changing room with a trans woman, after all.

    Not many people are 100% focussed with their obnoxiety, so it would fail to surprise me if it doesn’t come out in court that she had been annoying other customers.

  9. 11

    Yeah… A trans-specific bathroom… You’ve got to love how that manages to solve the cisgender person’s “problem,” but does absolutely noting to address the transgender person’s *!PROBLEM!*.

    “Oh… sorry you STILL have to out yourself to every complete stranger within shouting distance, but we can’t risk my privacy because *some guy* might try to use your Rights as a reason to spy on me!”

    *facepalm*

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