Caitlyn Jenner is now a woman in the eyes of the law. The transgendered woman, who has become an international symbol of the right to choose one’s own sexual identity, legally switched genders Sept. 25.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg signed the paperwork. Now the woman who was born William Bruce Jenner on Oct. 28, 1949, can get a new driver’s license and Social Security card, along with all of the other government documents that everyone needs.
But will that be enough to allow the former Olympic athlete to enter the women’s locker room at Planet Fitness? Maybe. And if she does, will Caitlyn’s new legal status be enough for the women who would be changing their clothes and showering alongside her?
The answer has to be “no” for Michigan woman Yvette Cormier. She has sued her local Planet Fitness franchise and the national gym chain’s parent company because her membership was cancelled after Yvette refused to stop warning other women about a transgendered woman — male appendage still intact — that she saw in the showers.
Her suit claims emotional distress, numerous violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, and an invasion of privacy were all caused by Planet Fitness’ policy of allowing transgenders to change and shower with women.
However, the judge hearing the case is having trouble dealing with the allegation at the heart of Yvette’s legal action: that simply the presence of a man claiming to be a woman in the locker room and showers of Planet Fitness constitutes sexual harassment under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Midland County, Mich., Circuit Court Judge Michael Beale pointed out in a 90-minute hearing that Yvette was never touched by the transgendered woman in question. But her attorney, David Kallman, argued a transgender-friendly policy is “sexual in nature by allowing men in the women’s locker room,” not to mention the fact that women and men are naked together in the same locker room and taking showers together.
Arthur Pressman, an attorney for Planet Fitness, spoke for his client when he told reporters, “We don’t judge our members and we don’t allow them to judge each other.”
Try telling that to the parents of children in the Troy City Schools in Troy, Ohio.
Kids in that school system are allowed to choose which restroom and locker room they use, depending on their “sense of gender,” regardless of which sex they were assigned at birth.
“I think there’s a lot of unnecessary fears around this. For our son, who started his transition in high school, he used the boy’s bathroom and it was honestly a non-event,” Laticia Miller, parent of a transgender student, told WKEF-TV after the school district held a public meeting led by the head of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s transgendered clinic to help parents of the rest of the kids deal with their fears.
“We need to understand showering or dressing next to a member of the transgendered is nothing to get excited about,” a social worker explained to parents during a similar meeting in an upstate New York school district.
“Gender originates in the brain. It has nothing to do with external genitalia at all and it is not a choice for transgender people,” Patricia Jordan told WICZ-TV.
It is still all about external genitalia in Massachusetts, where the state’s governor and a dozen of its largest cities are at odds over what the Massachusetts Family Institute calls “the Bathroom Bills.”
Ironically, the debate is taking place in the fictional home state of Cage, Fish & Associates, the law firm where Ally McBeal and her associates shared a unisex restroom on the Fox TV show.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and eleven of his mayoral peers announced their support for Senate Bill 735 and its companion, House Bill 1577, in early September.
The legislation would extend Massachusetts’ non-discrimination laws by adding gender identity to the list of protected classes, granting explicit protection for transgender people in public spaces.
“Everyone has the right to enjoy retail stores, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, theaters, public parks, and public transportation,” said Mayor Walsh. Left unspoken by Walsh is the real intent of the bills: to make sure everyone can choose which bathroom to use.
If the Legislature passes what Walsh has endorsed, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has promised to veto it. Although he has not issued an official statement, Baker has said through his top aides that he would prefer the state’s non-discrimination laws be left alone.
Kris Mineau, the board chairman and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Family Institute, has been much more outspoken in opposition to the legislation.
“If House Bill 1577 becomes law, men will be allowed to shower with women and young girls in gyms, and schoolchildren as young as kindergarten will be allowed to co-mingle in bathrooms,” Mineau told the Daily Item. “No law should make whole segments of the population feel unsafe and exploit their privacy and security.”
And then there is what actress Courtney Thorne-Smith, who played the role of Georgia Thomas on the Ally McBeal show, said about using a unisex bathroom: “There is just so much room to play in there.”