Tacoma Area YMCA to Spend $1 Million on Locker Room Renovations to Accommodate Transgender Concerns

The YMCA covering Tacoma Washington is coming into compliance with a new state law related to antidiscrimination partly by renovating its locker rooms to provide more privacy Photo by Thinkstock
<p>The YMCA covering Tacoma, Washington, is coming into compliance with a new state law related to anti-discrimination, partly by renovating its locker rooms to provide more privacy. (Photo by Thinkstock.)</p>

The YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties in Washington state has a new policy related to transgender members' use of locker rooms and plans to renovate the locker rooms to provide more privacy, according to a statement from the Y's CEO and President Bob Ecklund. 

On Tuesday, Ecklund released a statement sharing that effective Dec. 21, the Y would not discriminate in its restroom and locker room procedures against people based on gender identity, which puts the Y in compliance with a Washington state anti-discrimination law related to public accommodations for transgender people. That law takes effect Dec. 26. Members can use the locker rooms of the gender they self-identify with. 

The Y's board of directors previously approved $1 million to enhance privacy in existing changing facilities, locker rooms and showers. Those renovations will begin in early 2016 and will add private locker rooms to accommodate individuals, couples or families. 

In April, the Y had adopted a policy to allow transgender members to use the locker room that aligned with the gender they self-identified with, but some members complained. Those complaints led the Y to revise the policy in October to ask transgender members who are in transition to use private locker rooms for dressing and showering at family YMCAs, although they were allowed to use standalone restrooms that aligned with their gender identification. At the Y's two adult facilities, transgender members were allowed to use locker rooms and restrooms that aligned with their gender identification.

The Y subsequently met and corresponded with leaders of LGBTQ advocacy groups, representatives of the faith community, people opposed to accommodating transgender people, representatives from public agencies, elected officials, donors and members, Ecklund shared in the statement. The meetings led the Y back to its April policy to allow transgender members to use the locker rooms of their choice.

"Our consultations have been thorough and extensive. This has been one of the most significant issues our YMCA has grappled with in several years. We apologize for our missteps earlier this year, including a lack of education, communication and process. We made mistakes, and we are sorry," the statement said. 

In the October, the Y noted that part of the concern was to protect children from "inappropriate exposure to nudity in the locker rooms, including the potential abuse of our locker room use by non-transgender indviduals."

However, the Y later noted: "Some members of the media and the community have correlated unrelated issues, which we want to take the time to clarify. The issues of transgender inclusion and child safety are unrelated. Any thought that our transgender community is any more of a threat to children’s safety than any other group of members is a thought that the YMCA wants to strongly and expressly disavow."

The Family YMCA of the Glens Falls Area in New York also recently faced backlash over its policy allowing transgender members to use the locker room of their choice. One member canceled her membership and complained about that policy in a letter to the local paper, The Post-Star, in November after a member who self identifies as a woman but had not transitioned used the women's locker room. The letter gained attention and a "few more" members canceled their memberships, the Y's CEO, Brian Bearor, told the paper. He said that most members had been positive about the policy.

This is not the first time the issue of which locker room transgender members should use has come up for the fitness industry. In February, a member of Planet Fitness in Michigan complained about the club allowing transgender members to use the locker room of their choice. The woman is now suing the local Planet Fitness franchisee and Planet Fitness corporate, claiming her membership was revoked because she complained about the policy and made others in the club aware of it.

Planet Fitness is seeking dismissal of the case

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