YMCA Caves To Transgender Demands, Controversy Ensues

ymca A0020What started off as a complaint from two people out of the 140,000 members of the Pierce and Kitsap Counties YMCA has now resulted in an anything-goes locker room policy. Members are now allowed to use whichever locker room or restroom that they feel aligns with whatever gender they feel like being, whether or not they are pre or post op and regardless of what kind of genitals they have.

The News Tribune has been keeping up with the story.

From an October 9th article, where Y officials tried to hide the policy shift from the public:

The Y first formulated a policy in April, but did not publicly announce it because officials didn’t think it needed to be broadcast to the entire membership, said senior vice president Michelle LaRue.

The initial policy stated that members could use locker rooms and restrooms of the gender they identified with.

The policy was made by Y leaders and did not involve transgender community members or Y members.

Last week, when talk of the new policy began to spread unofficially, the topic went viral on social media platforms with a mostly negative reaction to the policy itself and that it had not been publicized.

The first revision of the policy read:

▪ At family facilities, transgender members in transition must use private locker rooms for dressing and showering.

Transgender members can use standalone restrooms that align with their gender identification at those facilities.

▪ At adult facilities, transgender members and those in transition can use locker rooms and restrooms that align with their gender identification.

LaRue said the Y wrote the policy to be pro-active and on the record.

No transgender members had complained about how they were treated, and no other Y members had complained about transgender members, she said.

“We implemented this policy to say we welcome you, you can use the locker rooms of the gender which you identify and (we) had no problem,” LaRue said.

However, some transgender Y members say the policy is a backward step made out of unfounded fears and prejudice.

“To tell people that they have to be separated because of who they are is discrimination,” said Seth Kirby, a transgender man and a Y member.

An update came on December 16th, where the new updated policy was announced, 5 days before it was to take effect:

Under a policy taking effect Monday, transgender members of the YMCA will once again be able to use the locker rooms and restrooms of their gender identity.

The revised and broadly worded nondiscrimination policy, announced Tuesday, will cover 120,000 members and 40,000 program participants at Y facilities in Pierce and Kitsap counties.

Staff members are being trained, and new signage will be installed, officials said.

There will be safeguards in place when the new policy begins, said Michelle LaRue, spokeswoman for YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

“It’s not an open-door-no-questions-asked policy,” she said. “We will respectfully ask that (transgender members) self-identify their gender in our database and then use a locker room consistent with that identity.”

In addition, the Y’s board earlier voted to spend about $1 million to upgrade and enhance the privacy of Y changing areas, LaRue said. Private changing rooms will become more common, she said.

The Y has spent the last 90 days engaging with members, staff members, community leaders, elected officials, the attorney general’s office and LGBT advocacy groups.

It also solicited member comments.

“We had a collection of hundreds of emails, statements and letters from our members and encouraged them to send those in,” LaRue said. “We compiled all of that to make an informed decision.

Some Y members are quitting over the new policy, however.

LaRue said she did not know how many but said, “We hope everyone feels welcomed and included at the Y. We respect the decision of all 120,000 member on whether to remain a member at the Y.”

Rich Stuart of South Hill said he suspended his family’s membership Saturday when the direction the Y was headed became clear. He was one of several members who met with Y officials.

Stuart and other members expressed several concerns, the chief of which are the safety of children, mixed gender nudity and trauma to sexual abuse victims.

Jill Wade and her two children are members of the Y. The Spanaway woman volunteers at the Mel Korum Family YMCA in Puyallup. She feels the new policy is a step backward.

“It’s dangerous to have a policy where people of the opposite sex can go into any locker room they choose,” Wade said.

“We’ve moved from one small segment of the population feeling uncomfortable in their locker room to a much larger segment of people feeling uncomfortable in their locker room.”

Wade said she plans to drop her membership at the YMCA.

“There are other facilities that are more respectful of privacy than the Y is,” she said.

The situation grew so out of control that one woman assigned to facilitate the policy was fired by the YMCA, due to taking leave after being triggered.

Kaeley Triller Haver, a former communications director with the YMCA of Kitsap and Pierce Counties, said she lost her job because of the new policy.

Triller Haver said she was assigned in March to work on the new policy.

She said she told the Y’s board that the organization was not being honest with its members regarding its motivations. She also told a few members about the new policy.

A former sexual abuse victim, Triller Haver said the work triggered post-traumatic stress disorder. She went on medical leave Nov. 12.

On Nov. 30, she was told she was being fired for inappropriate communication with members.

“They gave me two options,” Triller Haver said. “Either I could be fired and get paid for that day or I could resign and take a severance package which included benefits and severance pay for 10 weeks if I agreed not to say anything about this.”

She chose to be fired that day.

“I have to be able to speak,” she said.

Several Republican lawmakers want to rein in Washington state’s new rules that say businesses and public entities must let transgender people use facilities consistent with the gender they identify with, regardless of whether they’ve undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Critics say the new rules create the potential for people who aren’t transgender to prey on people of the opposite sex, while violating people’s expectations of privacy when undressing in locker rooms.

The administrative rule change was approved by the state’s Human Rights Commission in November and went into effect last month, prompting policy changes at some organizations, such as the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties. After some debate, that YMCA now allows transgender members to use locker rooms and restrooms of the gender they identify with, consistent with the new state rules.

State Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, said he plans to introduce a bill next week that would once again let businesses limit access to gender-specific facilities based on a person’s genitalia.

In his view, only those who have a undergone sex reassignment surgery or those born a certain sex should use that gender’s restroom, he said.

“If you’re non-operative or pre-operative, having access to a facility that is different from the genitalia that you have, that’s where the security concerns come in,” Hunt said.

But advocates for transgender individuals say that requiring them to use restrooms inconsistent with their gender identity can open them up to violence and harassment.

“To force transgender women to bear the burden of being in a men’s locker room … how many women would feel comfortable going into a men’s locker room and changing?” asked Danni Askini, executive director of the Seattle-based Gender Justice League. “You want to talk about risk — that’s a significant risk.”

Even a policy change to require transgender individuals to use private or separate restrooms could lead to their being singled out and targeted, Askini said.

Many people also have difficulty accessing or affording sex reassignment surgery, so making bathroom access contingent on that is problematic, she said.

“We just want to pee in peace. We just want to go to the bathroom,” Askini said. “And that’s like, how fundamental and basic can that be? And we want to do that in a way that’s safe for us and that doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to us.”

MEANWHILE, Seattle’s alternative weekly, The Stranger, is warning people about the coming “right wing backlash”:

The Washington legislative session gets underway next week and Republican officials are busy riling up the fears of their base over a new rule from the state’s Human Rights Commission that explicitly protects the right of transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Transgender advocates say progressives need to be prepared for this backlash. In other places around the country, as former Stranger writer Dominic Holden has reported for BuzzFeed, LGBTQ groups have been caught flat-footed as campaigns to overturn anti-discrimination laws have seen success by spreading the bullshit claim that they allow men to go into women’s restrooms and do bad things.

Only in America can such a controversy arise because someone wants to chop off their wang or get a fake one sewed on.

Pierce County is home to Tacoma, just south of Seattle, while bordering Kitsap County is across Puget Sound from Seattle.

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