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.