Men Undressing in Women’s Locker Rooms in No Way ‘Tests’ Trans Rights Laws

A Seattle man was recently asked to leave a female-only changing room after claiming he was “allowed” to be there. The media has taken this to be the first big test of transgender public accommodations laws.

Here’s why that’s not only wrong, but also plays into transphobia.

Daily News reported the following about the incident that occurred on February 8:

“An unidentified man wearing board shorts walked into the women’s bathroom of Evans Pool, in the heart of Seattle, on Monday evening. The women inside the locker room at the time attempted to kick him out, but the guy refused and said ‘the law has changed and I have the right to be here.’”

Additional reports say the man was asked to leave by Pool staff. The same man attempted to gain access later that day when children were changing.

The rule cited here is the Washington Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) clarification of existing sex protections. In December the HRC decided that, just as federal law is now being interpreted, it could reasonably accommodate protections for transgender people under existing gender rules. This meant that trans people are now explicitly safe-guarded in public accommodations, bathroom access and, with some caveats, in state schools too.

What has to be stressed about this recent incident is that at no point did the man identify or even suggest that he was transgender. Therefore, he was not availing himself of the transgender protections but instead was violating the privacy of women in that changing room.

USA Today spoke with officials who made clear their feelings that this wasn’t a trans rights issue:

As far as policy to protect everyone, Seattle Parks spokesman David Takami says they’re still working on the issue. Right now, there’s no specific protocol for how someone should demonstrate their gender in order to access a bathroom.  Employees just rely on verbal identification or physical appearance, and this man offered neither.

“This didn’t seem like a transgender issue to staff – someone who was “identifying” as a woman,” Takami said in a statement. “We have guidelines that allow transgender individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. We want everyone to feel comfortable in our facilities.”

The media continues to frame the incident as though it was the first major test anywhere in the country of transgender protections and how they might be abused by opportunists. But this event didn’t test transgender rights laws or demonstrate that they are unsafe, and suggesting so actually perpetuates transphobia.

In reality, a cis-male entered a female changing room and caused a scene. By all accounts, he later attempted to do the same while there were children present. As the staff rightly point out, this man in no way identified as female and was rightly removed.

Far from testing trans rights laws, the incident illuminates two important points. First off, some cis-men seem to have an agenda that involves entering female changing rooms. And that begs us to question why we’re allowing our lawmakers to demonize trans people. Secondly, trans rights do not prevent other laws and regulations from functioning to safe-guard people when opportunistic men do trespass.

Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out that while state rules have recently changed, Washington has actually had trans-inclusive protections in place since 2006 (albeit with some gaps), while Seattle has had public accommodations protections for a number of years now. There has never been an incident where trans access presented a problem–that is until one man this month tried to make it a problem.

It’s unclear if this man’s actions were a protest of sorts, but that seems likely as they were timed to coincide with demonstrations at the state capital both in favor of and against the changes.

The Religious Right has made it a central goal to attack trans rights in a variety of ways, including repealing trans rights ordinances and wider trans rights laws. There have been several ongoing legislative attempts in Seattle and Washington state. Fortunately, and unlike in other parts of the U.S., those efforts have failed.

Regardless, this man’s actions only proved that when a cis-man does go into changing rooms and facilities, there are people and regulations to protect those at risk–and they working just fine.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

108 comments

william Miller
william Miller9 months ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

Everyone needs to stick to the locker rooms and restrooms of the sex that they actually have. When you are changing clothes or using the restroom you have the expectation of privacy away from the opposite sex.

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Sierra B.
Sierra B1 years ago

wow

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Roberto M.
Past Member 1 years ago

THANKS

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Bush W.
Bush W.1 years ago

Thank you to the people who have explained the "thanks/noted" comments in discussions here. (I had suspected this was how things worked - not a regular myself, as may be obvious; I just check things out occasionally when my mum forwards something ;) .) Maybe people who add those comments would like to actually "Join the conversation" occasionally!

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers1 years ago

There's always one...

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn1 years ago

Many thanks to you !

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Effra W.
Effra W1 years ago

Sad but interesting. The media spins and warps everything and is a huge part of the problem. Cis isn't a term that I've come across before, so I've learnt something that I probably should have known already too. Thanks.

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Bush W.: With "thank you" and "noted" or even just a bunch of random letters! you get Butterfly Points. And people collect Butterfly Points in order to get things to give to Charities chosen by Care2. I agree that otherwise it is pointless. But C2 has set things up this way!

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