A Midland, Michigan fitness center has become the center of a battle for transgender rights, highlighting the need for public dialogue and education about transgender people, their rights, and the law. Yvette Cormier, a Midland, Michigan member of fitness chain Planet Fitness recently had her membership revoked after she repeatedly complained about a transgender woman she mistook for a man in the women's locker room, reports ABC News.
Carlotta Skoldowska, the transgender woman, later deduced she was the person at the center of the controversy, because she's the only trans woman in Midland, she told Saginaw News. She was a guest of a member, she said, and went into the women's locker room only to hang up her coat and purse. She said she understood why Cormier would see her as masculine.
When Cormier first went to complain that there was a man in the locker room on February 28, according to the Saginaw News, she was told by an employee that the person identified as a woman. Cormier called the Planet Fitness corporate office and was told that the gym was a "no judgment zone" and the transgender woman had a right to be in the women's locker room. After Cormier returned to the gym and warned other women that there was a man in the women's locker room, Planet Fitness revoked her membership.
In a public statement, Planet Fitness PR director McCall Gosselin said that it was not Cormier's complaints to the gym that caused her membership to be revoked, but rather the "disruptive" manner in which she expressed her concerns. Gosselin said that the gym is "committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity."
He added, "The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled."
But for critics of Planet Fitness's policy, the real question is women's safety at the gym. "Planet Fitness obviously should rethink its anti-woman, anti-reality policy," said State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Larkin Township. "If they don't, they shouldn't be surprised in a conservative family-friendly community such as Midland if they lose more female members." Glenn, who is the president of the American Family Association of Michigan, has opposed efforts to pass LGBT non-discrimination laws, according to Saginaw News. He said that his wife would not be going back to Planet Fitness because it didn't offer "a family friendly" environment, and stated that Planet Fitness should publicly announce their transgender policy, which he thinks "violates the privacy, comfort and peace of mind of women."
Transgender advocates like Charin Davenport, a professor at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University, looks at the rights, privacy and safety of of transgender women as well. Announcements relating to someone's sexual identity can put transgender people at risk for harm, she told Saginaw News. She also said that should there be a unisex bathroom installed, trans women should be able to choose whether they want to use it or not.
"When things like this happen, this is an opportunity for a dialogue to take place," said Davenport. "This is going to play this out all across this country," she said. "As a society, how do we handle these issues?"