A story broke yesterday of a transgender woman being banned from using the women’s locker room at an LA Fitness in California after the gym learned she was transgender. While this is clear discrimination, it’s unfortunately not at all surprising to me. I’m sure the gym has absolutely no issue with treating trans women exactly the same as all their other clients when it comes to monthly fees, but when it comes to actually providing the same services and facilities, they just can’t seem to see us the same way.
I just found out about this story earlier this morning, but I find it interesting this story broke when it did since I was thinking a lot about this very thing last night on my run. With the colder weather coming in and winter approaching, hitting the gym for some treadmill runs may be unavoidable soon. I typically don’t mind running in the cold, even when it’s only in the upper teens or low twenties out, but when it’s raining or exceptionally icy, sometimes it can be just a bit too much for me. I don’t even think I’ve used my gym membership half a dozen times this whole year. I really hate the treadmill and I have little interest in any of the other equipment there. However, it’s nice to know I have the option when I need it so I continue to pay my cheap $20/month membership for Retro Fitness.
To be honest, I don’t know how my gym is going to handle my being transgender. I know the women’s locker room has changing rooms so, in theory, I could just walk in and change and no one would give me a hard time. However, when I’m running (and I guess working out, in general), I look much more androgynous than I do like a woman. While it’s getting better, I do expect that I’d get clocked at some point. And even regardless of that, when you scan your membership card, your photo pops up on the computer screen on the other side of the counter. If someone is there at the time, they’d likely see that my photo doesn’t match what I look like now.
I’ve seen some chatter on Twitter about this and it seems some people have or plan to just preemptively quit their gyms and join new ones. This is what I was specifically thinking about on my run last night. Most gyms have completely ridiculous termination fees. Even after you terminate, they make you pay for two or three more months. I don’t think that’s fair to begin with, but it’s in the contract you sign so you don’t have much room to fight it. However, when it comes to situations like this, exceptions need to be made. If you’re unwilling to provide the services you promised me, that’s on you, not me.
Since my run last night was a nice nine-miler, I had plenty of time to really think about how I would personally handle the situation. I decided what’s best for me would be to stop by the gym after work sometime when I wasn’t planning on actually using it and simply ask them to update my account accordingly. Tell them I need to change the name, billing information, gender, and photo on my account. I would also inform them that I intend on using the women’s locker room. Being upfront about it in this way can save some potential awkwardness later on. At this point, it’s on them to either tell me they have no problem with me using the women’s facilities or declare themselves as transphobic assholes. I would obviously hope for the former, but if it is the latter, I would ask for the manager and simply explain that if I am not allowed to use the appropriate facilities then they need to cancel my account without charging any fees. I would be as nice as possible about it and I wouldn’t want to immediately go the route of telling them I would dispute the charges to my credit card and get a lawyer involved if necessary, but I probably do need to be prepared for this as a possible outcome.
In the end, I don’t know how my gym will handle this, but it’s something I will be facing soon, I’m sure. Regardless of how my specific situation works out, the fact that this is even a thing trans people need to think and worry about is a problem. Trans women are women and trans men are men. It’s that simple. Me being in the men’s locker room would be MUCH more jarring and make more people uncomfortable than me being in the women’s locker room would.