Behind the Scenes

The Unfamiliar Can Lead to Uncertainty for Health Club Operators

Few people who are not transgender likely gave much thought to the transgender community until former Olympian and celebrity Bruce Jenner revealed that he was transgender and began his transformation into Caitlynn Jenner. However, nearly 700,000 people in the United States are transgender, about 0.3 percent of the adult population, according to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute.

That means that perhaps 0.3 percent of the membership of your fitness facility is transgender. That may not seem like a lot, but even if it is just one person, compassion for others means accommodating these people so that they and your other members feel comfortable in the private spaces of your facility—namely, the locker rooms. If compassion doesn't inspire you to create a policy related to transgender members, then perhaps anti-discrimination laws and just good business sense will, as you could be sued in one case and skewered on social media and in the press in the other case if you don't have a non-discriminatory policy in place.

But exactly what should you do? One YMCA in the Tacoma, Washington, area is grappling with that issue now, as you can read in this story. Its solution is to allow people to use the locker room they self-identify with and goes a step further by spending $1 million to provide more privacy in its locker rooms.

Unfortunately, not every club operator can afford to spend a lot of money to add more privacy to locker rooms. And as more states focus on anti-discrimination laws, you may get push back from members about your transgender members using the locker room of the gender they self-identify with. So, check out this article about hot button issues that health club operators are facing today and this article on five ways to mitigate risks, and then share with us your plans for how you are accommodating or plan to accommodate all the needs and concerns of the members of your fitness facilities. 

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