February 27, 2009

Working It Out: Let's all just get naked together

Should a preoperative transgendered woman be allowed access to a women-only gym? This is a question that is presently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Here's some background for you. When John Fulton picked up the phone and heard a man's voice, requesting access to his new women-only gym, he thought it was "just some guy trying to take advantage of the special rates", but when a woman with that same man's voice showed up a week later, asking to sign up for a membership, Fulton knew he faced quite the dilemma. Fulton doesn't seem like a bigot. He says he has many friends in the LGBT community, has been to gay and lesbian rallies, and is well versed in LGBT discourses. Faced with the dilemma, Fulton said he called the Ontario Human Rights tribunal. I imagine that he didn't really want to give membership to the transgendered person, because he felt it might alienate his female clientele. The Human Rights tribunal told him that had to let the "man
use the women's facilities", but he said he couldn't get an answer on what his rights were, and the rights of his female clients are. Since in Ontario, the law provides for sex segregation on the basis of "public decency", I think the Human Rights tribunal came to this conclusion a little too decidedly, and a little too quickly. I imagine that a lot of women at Fulton's gym would feel like THEIR rights (to be segregated), would be violated. Fulton has since gone to arbitration with the (now post-op) transgendered woman, and told her that she was welcome to use the club at any time now that she would present as a woman, in the nude, in the locker room. This was not enough. She wants money for her troubles. Fulton doesn't want to settle, he's said that he will be homeless and living on the street before he gives her a penny. And I see his point. But I also see her point. So what do we do, and where do we go from here? Is the answer to provide a third, or fourth space in a gym (for pre-op trans women or men)? Would that be considered othering, or would that simply follow the general established sex-segregation order that's already in place? Or maybe everyone can change in one room? HAHA right? I went to the gym with my partner last week, and while he was in the men's change room getting something for me that I'd put in his bag, I walked up the stairs and stood outside the door to the locker room (in a way that I was not looking into the room, nor would I have seen anything if I had been staring into the room, because the locker rooms have a coat room in front of the door, and you can't see at all into the changing area.) ANYWAY. My boyfriend almost shat himself when he saw how close I was standing to the changing room door, he said "You're up the STAIRS. You can't be UP THE STAIRS. You are confusing people! No women up the stairs!" (He's very cool and pro-feminist, so don't write him off as douchy) So I say, "but I'm standing at a respectful distance..I'm not looking into the change room...I don't see what the big deal is". He still thought it was a HUGE problem. I don't see what the big deal, I really do not have a problem with nudity. I spent a nice little chunk of my summer on a nude beach, and no one was weird, no one was creepy, there were tits, dicks, balls and vages all over the place, and no one ever said a damn thing. But when you go to a place where sex (anatomycal and gender) differences are REALLY played up, in the sense that people are being "hypermasculine" or "hyperfeminine" (a bar for example...), that's when the rude and misogynistic comments start flying around, and men start beating each other and knocking each other's teeth out (true story). So I've gotten a little off track here, but I think that in a sense, these issues all belong in the same pot. And the moral of the story is: if we can all just grow up a little, respect each other, respect our differences, and embrace them, the world will be a better place.

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