Woman Barred From Planet Fitness Gym After Complaining About Transgender Person in Women's Locker Room

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The Planet Fitness gym chain has found itself at the center of an important discussion on transgender rights. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)  

A Michigan woman is defending her behavior toward a transgender person that ultimately resulted in her losing her gym membership.

“This is all new to me. I didn’t go out to specifically bash a transgender person that day,” Yvette Cournier told CNN Tuesday night, in an attempt to defend the behavior that ultimately resulted in her losing her membership to the Planet Fitness in Midland, Michigan.

“This is about me and how I felt unsafe. I should feel safe in there.”

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Yvette Cormier complained about a transgender woman in the ladies changing room at her local gym (Photo: Facebook) 

Upon seeing a transgender woman in the locker room, Cournier went to the gym’s front desk to complain, explaining, “I wanted to know why there was a man in the women’s locker room. He looked like a man, and that’s what stopped me in my tracks.” Cournier was told by the front desk representative about Planet Fitness’ “no-judgment” policy, which includes the use of bathrooms and locker rooms by individuals based on “their sincere, self-reported gender identity.”

Unsatisfied with this reply, Cournier took it upon herself to return to the gym the next week and for three days in a row go up to as many women gym members as she could find and said, “[J]ust so you know, there’s a man they allow in this locker room and they don’t tell you that when you sign up.” It was for this behavior, and not her original complaint, that Cournier’s membership was revoked.

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Carlotta Sklodowska has come forward to say she believes she is the person Cournier complained about in the locker room. (Photo: Facebook)

Explaining her stance to CNN, Cournier said, “If you have male parts you don’t need to be in the women’s locker room. I don’t care what you are; I don’t care if you’re gay, lesbian, transgender or transvestite. I am uncomfortable with you as a male in my locker room, in my restroom.”

An important fact overlooked by Cournier is that there was not, in fact, a man in the women’s locker room. A trans person who identifies as female should be recognized and accepted as such, and research shows that these individuals are no less secure in their gender identity as cisgender persons. 

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And yet, it is transgender individuals who most often feel unsafe in public spaces and in the workforce. The use of bathrooms and other shared private-public spaces such as locker rooms is a particularly difficult area for many trans people.

“Transgender people can face harassment and discrimination while engaging in simple daily activities such as going to the gym or using the restroom, and yet only 17 states offer explicit protection in public accommodations,” Alison Gill, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), tells Yahoo Health. “We applaud those businesses, like Planet Fitness, that take additional measures to ensure that transgender people are treated fairly and respectfully in their everyday lives.”

Presently, lawmakers in Florida, Texas and Kentucky all have proposed legislation which would make it a crime for a person to use a restroom or changing room that does not correspond with their biologically assigned gender, regardless of the individual’s stated gender identity.

The majority of these bills seek to restrict access to sex-segregated facilities — such as bathrooms and locker rooms, for transgender people by defining sex in a way that actively excludes transgender individuals’ gender identity. These pieces of legislation often seek to define sex as something based on chromosomes, sex assignment at birth, or whatever form of ID (such as a driver’s license) that person carries — all things that so often do not align with how a transgender person lives their life.

Furthermore, Gill notes, many emerging pieces of legislation around this form of discrimination apply specifically to schools and youth, yielding a situation where schools are not only forced to make their students use inappropriate bathrooms based on their gender identity, but also putting schools in conflict with federal law, as Title IX clearly provides protection based on gender identity. 

Trans people face exactly the kind of issues brought to light by the Planet Fitness incident on a daily basis, often in situations with much bigger repercussions than gym usage.

Employment, for example, can be a key problem area for transgender people, especially as only 17 states have non-discrimination policies that apply to gender identity on the books.

“When you are trans and you can’t even get your foot in the door because you are not ‘passable,’ and you can’t even pick up the phone and say, ‘this is Mary’ with a deep voice and not have them laugh at you, there are so many barriers to that,” Angelica Ross, the trans CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a training organization working to prepare members of the trans community skills for technology-oriented jobs, told Fast Company last month. 

“Transgender people face heightened risk for discrimination in regards to employment,” Gill says, “They have lower employment rates than the general population and heightened rates of poverty.” Furthermore, should a transgender person be able to overcome such discrimination and gain employment, they can face “heightened discrimination” in the workplace “if there are not clear policies in place” by their employer in regards “to use of sex-segregated facilities in the workplace,” a dynamic that often yields greater problems for the trans employee should they “be forced to use a specific restroom.”

Says Ross of her work and mission, “Let’s not fantasize about having a world of only trans people or only of LGBTQ people. Let’s fantasize about a world in which we all can co-exist, and where there is just talent that recognizes talent.”

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