(If you came searching for ALO's Barbeque, click the word. It's a good song, that's why I borrowed it's lyrics.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

How the pool spoiled the spa

It's not every day I get to go to a spa. Few things can be better than a spa weekend in the Catskills with a childhood friend. From yoga and cardio, facials and massages, then steam room and sauna we had it all, not to mention delicious, healthful food. I should have returned home glowing, and I did, for about three minutes. Then I picked up the mail.

Maybe the registered letter was a paycheck--I've recently started two part time jobs. No such luck. I opened it and started shaking. I had instead received a reprimand from the director of the private pool we belong to. He had scheduled an appointment to which I responded, asking for the proposed agenda. Not hearing back, I never showed. As it turns out the agenda was the locker rooms.

Two years ago he demanded that each time Janet visit the toilet/locker room we would have to approach the manager on duty who would escort us, empty the room, then stand guard while our business was done. I flatly refused. When we attempted to use the bathroom for the first time after his requirements, entering was no big deal. When we exited, sure enough a sheepish young manager stood guarding the room. I was furious. Clearly somebody had been appointed to watch our every movement and follow us if we ventured into the bathroom. But my anger soon abated since it turned out nobody bothered us again. Until yesterday.

The registered letter asked that we honor the 2009 agreement to inform a manager to use the bathroom in order to offer us "safety and privacy" as well as assure the "safety and privacy" of other club members. I don't even know where to start. One might suggest we use a family-style changing room, but in this case there is none, not even a staff bathroom. Furthermore, this avoids the question of why it would be necessary in the first place. Here's why his proposal stinks:
  1. Janet is more at risk if she has to be escorted to the bathroom virtually ensuring that she receive unwanted attention. Being singled out is never a safe proposal for a transgender individual.
  2. Privacy is not an issue with the bathroom as each toilet has a door. Any of you women out there ever accidentally see someone's genitals in the bathroom? Ever?
  3. Privacy is not an issue as far as Janet's body. She is more than anxious to keep her body private and would always use a stall.
  4. Privacy is not an issue for those who change in stalls.
  5. Privacy is not really an issue for someone who chooses to undress without a stall. Clearly that person already doesn't care about privacy. (Although I have never seen anybody undress publicly at the pool, reportedly some older patrons are more carefree.)
  6. What about Janet? Isn't she tricking the imaginary carefree undresser by masquerading as a female? Well, no, since she identifies as a girl, although this may be misunderstood by the uneducated. 
  7. Does her penis present a threat to others? How so? If so, it is only fair that a genital check be administered at the door to make sure that everybody's genitals--including those of intersex individuals--match their locker room choice. Intersex individuals are not uncommon comprising a similar proportion of the population as redheads. 
  8. What is the risk of Janet seeing the carefree dresser? I can only surmise that the pool director imagines that Janet, having a male body, might be sexually attracted to the elderly carefree dresser. (Huh?) This idea assumes that gender identity has anything to do with gender preference. It then leads to the question: should pool members be screened for gender preference and then be directed to the opposite locker room? How would this be implemented? We have to assume that lesbians use the womens' room and gays use the men's room on a regular basis. Is this against pool rules and would these rules be tolerated by the public?
  9. Is Janet a danger as a sexual deviant? Well, no, because she's a 12 year old girl. Besides which, gender identity has nothing to do with sexual deviancy.
I hope all this speculation will be moot. I wrote a brief letter to the director enclosing a copy of Janet's birth certificate which identifies her as a female.  It said, among other thins, "As for my daughter there seems to be a misunderstanding. Per the attached copy,  she is a girl. I trust there will be no further inquiries into this matter."

Another day in my life as a mom of a transgender child. But, hey, I might have a title to my next book, "The Carefree Dresser." I like it.


  1. I recently inquired at a local spa that has separate mens' and womens' days how they handle transgender adults who want to use the facilities. They said that they go by the person's driver's license.

    Since Janet's birth certificate says female (and for many other reasons--but in fights like this it's best to keep things simple), that is what they should go on.

    You may want to contact the Transgender Law Center for help in how to proceed.

    All the best,
    Sarah Hoffman

  2. We recently signed up for swimming lessons at a local pool. I went alone for the tour and was quite impressed with the family changing room. Testing the waters, I blithely commented to the director, "What a nice option for any transgender members who prefer more privacy than the regular changing room." I watched her reaction closely. She smiled, nodded, and said, "Yes. It is."

    She didn't hesitate or make a face or anything. I was surprised since the pool is the next town over in a pretty snooty area.

    That was six months ago. So far, so good.

    I do envy Janet's birth certificate. We've not gotten there yet and it sure would be helpful in other situations.

  3. This situation would be hard enough for a 40 year-old person to bear; it's difficult to imagine how a 12-yr-old can have the strength of confidence and morality to withstand it. Difficult until I realize the strength and morality of her mother, and her mother's obvious dedication to protecting the well-being of her child.

  4. I feel for you and your child. I've experienced life from the other direction, that is from your child's perspective (I'm 56 now, and knew at 6 that my gender wasn't what everyone was telling me it was.)

    There is a lot of ignorance out there, and one incident is too many, but there has been huge change in the past decade. Still, we've a long way to go. We work for rights, but then people scream 'bathroom bill', like TG folk are going in restrooms just to prey on others.

    The best advice I can give is no matter the circumstances you and Janet encounter, teach her to deal with it with calm grace. People undecided will tend to side with you when they see that, and I'd guess there is a great pool of undecided people or people willing to consider what you have to say.

  5. It is good to know we are not the only family dealing with these issues. It does not make the discrimination easier to swallow but strength in numbers will help change this new hurdle for equal rights and human rights. Thanks for posting!