SEATTLE – The YMCAs of Pierce and Kitsap counties on Monday began allowing transgender people to use the locker room that matches the gender with which they identify.
It’s a move that has stirred controversy, even leading some to cancel their YMCA memberships.
Surrounded by her family, Danni Askini shares the challenges she has faced as a transgender woman, especially when she uses facilities like a gym.
“I was approached several times just going to the bathroom or using the locker room at the gym that I go to with my husband by people who felt uncomfortable just by my presence,” said Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League.
She believes the new YMCA policy to allow people to use locker rooms consistent with their gender identity will provide a safer environment for people like her.
“From the national transgender discrimination survey, is that one in two transgender people have experienced being harassed or assaulted in places of public accommodation,” said Askini.
But mothers like Autumn Bennett told Q13 News that she’s concerned criminals will abuse the policy by posing as transgender to gain access.
“This, for me, has nothing to do with discrimination against any other sort of groups,” said Bennett. “It has everything to do with the safety of children. If you can't control who can go into the bathroom, then how can you know who's safe?”
But it’s an argument Askini says that has little basis, because transgender people have been accessing facilities like restrooms and lockers without incident.
“It’s more fear-based of a hypothetical situation,” said Askini.
Askini and her family say the YMCA's new policy simply eliminates risk to transgender people rather than create it for anyone else.
“Rather than being targeted and singled out for different treatment, that people try to get to know who transgender people are and understand the issues our community faces and seen as a solution and not seen as the problem,” said Askini.
More than 20 organizations, like the Gender Justice League and the Oasis Center, have come together in support of the YMCA policy stating “by adopting inclusive policies, places of public accommodation can ensure that all people are welcomed, included, and supported.”