Trans showers at the gym

I don’t think this story is as easy as some folks might portray it. People are still getting their heads around what it means to be gay, let alone trans. And the notion of a trans man who is still anatomically female going into a male shower room at a gym is something that I can see causing some difficulty.  Is it really as simple as saying, sure let him shower with the other guys?  Maybe, but read the story and let’s discuss this.

First the story, then some discussion:

Pine has been on masculinizing hormones for a year. When he went to the spa on Dec. 9 with a friend, he used the men’s shower facilities. Pine said the manager approached him while he was naked and asked to speak with him.

Both the manager and Pine tell the same story about what happened next.

The manager, who identified himself as John but declined to provide a last name to Windy City Times, questioned Pine about his gender. Pine told John that he was transgender, and John said he could provide Pine with a private shower.

Pine said he did not want a private shower and that he could use the same facilities used by other customers. But, John said, other customers had complained.

Generally speaking, a trans person’s gender is whatever they say it is – meaning, you ask the person how they prefer to be referred to.  If they say male, then they’re male.  That’s fine.

As for the shower at the spa (or gym, same question), say you have a trans man who is anatomically female and wants to use an open group men’s shower at the gym?  Is that ok?  Now what if it’s a trans woman who is anatomically male and wants to use the female showers that may or may not be open showers (meaning, you can see each other naked), though I suspect the locker room is open?

This issue isn’t nothing.  And it’s worth a civil discussion.  In the story above, the person involved was a trans man on hormones for a year, but who, from the story, sounds anatomically female, but clearly would look more male physically because of the hormones.  But he’d still have female sex organs.

health spa

Health spa via Shutterstock.

Does it matter, in terms of a public shower, if the trans person is pre or post opp – meaning, if a trans woman, for example, still has male genitals or now is fully a woman?  And what about a trans person who is pre-op but on hormones, like the man in the story?  Does that change the equation, because it might not be as apparent that he is still anatomically female?  And finally, what about a trans man who isn’t on hormones at all, hasn’t gotten surgery, but knows he’s trans, knows he’s really a man, but still has the body of a woman that he was born with?  Does that change anything?

And then, flip the story.  Make this about a trans woman, who is not undergoing hormone therapy, has not undergone a sex change, and who still looks 100% like a man.  Does that change anything?

We don’t let people of the opposite gender – or more precisely, with opposite sex organs – shower together.  It may be silly puritanism, and it may especially be silly since we let gay men shower with straight men, so it’s not like the rule is to stop people from being attracted to each other in the shower. So what is the reason? It is simply about sex organs, and we want one kinds of sex organs in one shower, and another in another? And even if it is about that, is that a good enough reason?

I honestly don’t know the answer, but this issue does seem complicated and confusing, and I don’t pity the spa owner.  I think he’d have a very bad situation on his hands if women were in the shower and saw a naked person with male genitals walk in and join them. I don’t think the women would assume the person was a trans woman (especially if the person were pre-surgery, and even more so if they weren’t doing hormone therapy).  I fear the women would assume some strange naked man had just joined them in the shower and was going to violate them.  How do you get around that?

Having said that, on civil rights issues, we don’t simply let people’s fears rule the day.  But I’d still like to know how this would actually work in practice – because the women wouldn’t necessarily be transphobic, rather, they’d think a naked man was in the shower with them, and would understandably be afraid.  So what do you do?  And would it even matter if the women knew the person was a trans woman who wasn’t on hormones and hadn’t had sex reassignment surgery, so she looked 100% like man, genitals and all – does that then make this simply about the women’s transphobia?

Maybe the answer is to force all spas and gyms to build locker rooms where no one can see each other naked in the locker room or the shower.  That could be pretty expensive.

I’d like to hear more about this from some trans people, and others who might be familiar with cases like this, and be willing to have an open and honest, civil discussion.  I think this issue is understandably confusing to a lot of people.  Airing it publicly is the only way things are going to change.  So that’s what I’m doing.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Brunhilda

    And yet there is no discussion of what is wrong with the roles themselves. Trans is utterly sexist, and it totally anti-women.

  • Logan Cannes

    I think you’re on the wrong blog man, very mature also :)

  • James Hill

    I’m sorry the minority is upset but what about the majority of people. Why must the majority need to deal whit this shit!! I personally don’t want to shower with a man wantabe and definately don’t want my wife showering with some weird fuck that thinks he’s a woman. I’m tired of society bending over and taking up the ass from a group of perverted freaks and the majority of America having to suCUM to this bullshit

  • Relinquishedpain

    For those who have a hard time believing just how true this statement is, take a quick peek into this incident.

    Thank you for pointing that out bellerose.

  • Bellerose

    Not just that but it can be a life and death issue. For example, a trans woman using a male bathroom can and does result in physical assault or possibly sexual assault whereas using the woman’s restroom could get some trans women thrown out of an establishment or even having to deal with the police. Transmen face a similar predicament.

    It might be easy for Sean to make light of the situation but this can realistically become a life and death type of situation for a trans individual.

  • Relinquishedpain

    How fairly and equal are defined and treated is always going to be different from person to person, which is why we say that every situation should be handled on a circumstantial basis. Because, yes, you would feel upset, and that your rights were being infringed, but there are many others who would not.

    And here is where the biggest issue among trans people is evident. For a binary trans, they are what they are tranistioning to. End of story, for an FTM like levi, he is a male, and he feels that he should have the rights that every other male is given, but by telling him that he has no option to use male facilities, you are saying “You are not a male to me, you are a woman and should just deal with it.” But when it comes to trans people, that’s not acceptable, and the laws in place do not treat trans people any more fairly than this.

    For example, we have a friend who just finished her surgery a few months ago. Now, where she lives, they cannot change the sex on her ID or paperwork, until after the surgery was complete. Her chosen surgeon was in… korea if we recall correctly. Now, she was stopped at the gate by security, because she appeared female by all accounts, but her ID said she was male. They would not let her board the plane because of this.

    Is it fair to say “You have a penis, so you have to be a male for today end of story?” In her heart, mind, and soul, to her family, her friends, her doctors, she was and is female, but because of that little M symbol on her papers, she was told she had to look the part to get on the plane. Where is the fairness in that to her? And this was a situation where no one would know but her!

    As far as asking him to leave, it is your right to confront someone who makes you uncomfortable or whom you feel is infringing on your rights, doesn’t matter the circumstances. If he overreacts, that only makes him more guilty when it comes to any issues that arise. The managers request/offer was perfectly reasonable when it comes down to the respect of the situation, and personally in this case if it really is as simple as that… the judge should laugh levi out of the courtroom because he is out of line by suing the manager over this.

    And no, ‘everyone’ on both sides should have to compromise from time to time, as the saying goes ‘you win some, you lose some’ and that is the way to look at it, in the shower, yes, the trans should accept that they are making people uncomfortable and take the private room, on a plane, it’s no one elses business and no one should bother with it.

    When it gets to court, it will probably be a mess, just like every other controversial issue… but no matter what happens in any courtroom ‘someone’ is going to be unhappy about it, that’s just a fact of the world.

  • skwcw2001


  • Irish856

    Your first statement does not offend me in the least… the questions pop up on how we define “fairly” and “equal right” to be here… I would not feel fairly treated. as well as my right to be in a men’s locker room with men that have men’s parts.

    Your question asking if a person with female body parts (and in this case a Female DL/ID) should be “forced” to use a woman’s shower… I say Yes… or a private shower (as was offered to this person)

    Your next statement about just asking the person to leave is too funny… The Mgr offered him a private shower… and he is suing… God only knows how he would have reacted to me.

    your last statement about compromises have to be made… please tell the guy who is the subject of this thread… or is it only me that must compromise???

    This subject will work its way through the courts… and I would bet that not everyone will be happy with the outcome.

  • Relinquishedpain

    How we think, is that everyone has an equal right to be here and be treated fairly and justly no matter their opinions, beliefs, gender, orientation, sex, or any other criteria that can be used to classify someone. Does that offend you?

    The issue here, being that no matter what rules and regulations you put on people, there will ‘always’ be situations where people will not meet eye to eye and where confrontations are possible.

    Should you share your shower with someone you don’t want to? No. But should for example in this instance, a person who views themselves as a man be forced to use the women’s shower because they were born the wrong sex? No.

    That’s the risk you run using a ‘public’ shower. If you don’t like it, or you come across a situation you don’t like, then by all means, ask that the person leave, or ask management to handle the situation, but should we tell the trans no he can’t use male facilities anywere, ever, because someone somewhere ‘might’ become offended by it? No. No one has any right to infringe on the freedom of expression of anyone else.

    When a confrontation happens, compromises have to be made yes, but you can’t just tell the world it can’t chew gum because ‘some’ people put it on the underside of their table. That’s just silly. Punish the people who cross the line, don’t punish everyone because one idiot makes an ass of themselves.

  • Irish856

    Relinquished… you said “Let people be who they want to be”… what you forgot to add was… as long as they agree with how you (relinquish) THINK… I have no desire to be naked in front of a naked woman or in front of a man with woman’s parts in my face.,,, nor do i want to see them naked either… so I guess that solves the issue… any locker room or rest room will be male only… that way you will let “ME” be who “I” want to be.
    Sadly it is not that easy… we need to work together to take care of this issue.

  • Irish856

    I do not see this as anyone taking a back seat to anything… There are plenty of places Like Living well Lady and Curves that prohibit men from joining… they have been ruled legal. Most of the locations I mentioned do not have showers or locker rooms, so everyone stays dressed and men are still not allowed… not sure how this will play out… it is not an easy topic.

  • “Genital separation” as it was coined in the article (I love it) is a cultural thing. Being a Tgirl pre-op, I understand this and will not drag my penis into a “no penis” area where someone would have the reasonable ability to see it (like a group shower).

    The person who made a fuss about being offered a shower is just being difficult. pre bottom surgery is one thing, but pre top surgery in an FtM is quite obvious, have some humility, realize that you are still transitioning (as in not done yet, not male) and hit the women’s room. (or better yet, take up that private shower offer!)

  • Bellerose

    Out of “sight” even.

  • Bellerose

    The other side of the issue is, what would women do if a transman who had been on hormones for several years walked into the female locker? Would they be comfortable with someone who looks male but had female sex organs?

    Chances are, most trans people will find that they’re not welcome in either room because this has little to do with genitals but rather, peoples discomfort with things that break expected social norms. This problem is hardly limited to trans people either. A dear friend of mine is intersexed and born with ambiguous genitals. He (he lives his life as a man) is routinely asked to change out of site of others, even asked once to change in a broom closet all because people were uncomfortable seeing someone who didn’t jive with their expectations of sex and gender.

    Also take marriage as an example. A number of state courts have ruled that even if a trans person gets SRS and changes their sex legally, they are still regarded as their birth sex for the purpose of marriage. This means that a male to female transsexual who is legally female might have her marriage annulled if she went before a court on the basis of it being a same sex relationship. But the real problem is what if that same trans person wants to marry a woman? She’s still legally female when she goes before the clerk to apply for marriage which makes that relationship ALSO a same sex relationship. You end up with states where trans people simply can’t marry anyone of any sex without the risk that their marriage might one day be invalidated. THAT’S a case I want to see go before the supreme court.

    This is hardly a issue limited to changing rooms either. Can a transwoman apply for funds set aside for women as part of affirmative action measures? Even if her license reads male, she may face the same sexism other women face. What about if a trans woman is incarcerated? Often trans people (especially those of color) end up in the prisons of the sex on their birth records. What about a trans victim of rape? They’re routinely turned away from female rape centers despite trans people having unbelievably high rates of victimization from rape and sexual assault. A transwoman will often be turned down or referred to one of the handful of male rape centers in the US. Even if there IS a male rape center, should that woman be forced to seek therapy in a space full of men when she was likely attacked by a man? Trans issues are significantly more complex than changing rooms and bathrooms.

  • VAI

    I find this discussion
    very interesting. However, i think one point is missing. The issue of
    Sex verses Gender. A person is born with chromosomes that define
    which sex the person is. Bathrooms and Locker rooms are identified
    by Sex not Gender. I believe the business owner acted responsibly and
    offered the Trans person a private room. The locker room was a mens
    locker, and this person had not had a sex change, therefore
    presenting physically female. Personally, as a woman when I use a
    woman’s locker room then I expect women to be in there. I think
    that’s reasonable. When i’m in a mixed sex sauna, then I expect it to
    be mixed. It’s quite simple. The trans community should use it’s
    influence to convince or create businesses to address their specific need. I mean how would gay men feel in a bathhouse, when pre
    op trans men were hanging out? It’s ok to have safe same sex space.

  • Thank you, Katherine. For better or worse, I’ve refused to stop writing about trans issue, in spite of several friends telling me to stop. I really do find this case a fascinating issue – because it does get into the “are you fighting for your civil rights or are you flaunting it” argument which gay people going through as well. Which is why I’m sensitive to the “he should just have gone along with the spa owner’s request” argument. Having said that, it also seems to me that this is not a clear cut “spa owner was obviously wrong” situation either. Which is why I think it’s worth discussing – whether or not we all agree, if we can chat about this civilly, we can all learn. So again, thank you – I really do appreciate the comment :) JOHN

  • Relinquishedpain

    Apparently there are several other additions that can and are used in addition to LGBT, Q being for those who question their sexuality.

  • Relinquishedpain

    Agreed that all sides of the LGBT community need to unite and actually support one another equally, but that will take time and effort too. Now what is this Q? Gonna get on google and see whats up with that.

  • skwcw2001

    so someone has made the choice to take hormones and change, that is great for them but to make all others adhere to that persons change is pushing it onto others, no matter how you look at it, the gays where hijacked years ago by a thankless ever bitching trans community that takes shots day in and out at gays for not being as supportive as they should. Yet when they are on tv they only talk about trans rights but demand anytime gays get their foot in a door, that they step over them and demand from all that they get this so called equal treatment, it isnt equal to demand that a 7 year old girl gets to see your hairy old balls in her shower room because you demand to use it while changing. Its crap like this that makes it harder for gays to get the rights they are fighting for, and for those about to call me all the names in the book you prove my point, at no point did i say trans is bad wrong or sick, I want them to have the right to make the changes in their lives that they feel they must, and to do so without harm and with equality but being a gay male i am 100 percent for my group only, in regard to my money or time or efforts. I dont think having a gender identity added to a sexuality issue in ever single form of legislations trying to get past. We all have our own fights, just saw a report on tv, we are now considered the LgbtQ community whats next, how much longer before we realize we are a joke.

  • Relinquishedpain

    Well, glad to see you have such an aggressive attitude towards this. We never once said the men involved were victims of ‘anything’ nor did we say that ‘all’ the responsibility was on the women, and never once did we say that any of it would deter every potential rapist, if you’ll note, we made a point to say ‘lesser’ potential predators, and lastly we don’t deal in absolutes, which is why we use qualifiers such as more often than not.

    35% is a big number, but it’s not nearly the 65% commited by people familiar to the victim. So lets clarify a few things. As far as the men concerned, yes, they have severe issues regarding women, and no matter what you want to say about it, any man who has enough disrespect towards women to rape them… someone, somewhere, has failed in their job to teach this person, or this person has some serious mental issues that need to be addressed.

    Now, no, not every person like this shows any warning signs, and some that do aren’t around people enough for others to notice, but if we as a society men and women ‘both’ make it a point to make the mental health of others a concern, it would go a long way towards moving us in a better direction.

    As far as women protecting themselves, no, you are right, when it comes to that minority of men who are going to rape a women regardless the circumstances, a whistle, pepper spray, a proper taser/stun gun, or you know.. anything that can be used to quickly call for help, or be used to defend themselves can, with proper training give them a hell of a better chance to prevent or limit the assault than going in unarmed.

    No, in general a woman doesn’t stand a chance against a man one on one, but even a five second head start to escape, ‘can’ make all the difference in ‘some’ situations.

    If we want to fix the problem, we have to look at long term solutions, which means getting people in the right state of mind on all sides of the issue, in addition to making short term changes.

    And on a personal note, when it comes to rapists… every convicted rapist should be shot in the head upon conviction. There is no rhyme nor reason for it, and in such instances, there is ‘no’ guaranteeing that upon release they aren’t going to go right back at it. Rapists,and child molesters both. The world would be a better place without either of them.

    Prevention is key, and is what we need to focus on, but when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of such things, there should be no mercy, no quarter, the assaulter shows their victim none, and they should recieve none.

    And on a final note, it’s not about what women should think or do, its not about what men should think or do, its what everyone as a society needs to do to start making things better, we see every single person on this earth with an equal lens until they cross the line and show that they aren’t worth society’s time and effort.

  • Kes

    The majority of sexual assaults are committed by somebody with whom the victim has passing familiarity, but about 35% are committed by complete strangers. So yes, it is “There is a woman, I’m going to rape her.”

    And suggesting that women can or should prevent rape by watching “warning signs,” or suggesting male friends/relatives go get mental health counseling, or using “products, and training, and etc,” such as whistles, demonstrates a TOTAL lack of understanding about rape, GROSSLY overstates the effectiveness these things have in deterring would-be assailants, AND puts the onus to avoid rape on women (while being responsible for ensuring the mental well-being and health of the men around them). And you’re also coming out and saying that men rape women because they need mental health (saying they’re some sort of victims of a failed mental health system), when we KNOW when men commit rape. There have been NUMEROUS studies on rapists, which have all reached the same conclusion: the vast majority of rapes of women are committed by a minority of males who quite literally HATE women.

    I strongly suggest that before bloviating on this topic any further, you do some research into sexual assault rather than basing your opinions on what women should do, or should think, or should feel, on some grade-school level of understanding about sexual assault and the lengths to which society will (or, more appropriately, WON’T) go to protect women.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    You didn’t criticize John’s post because you are a writer. Your criticisms had nothing whatsoever to do with grammar, style, or any other aspect of writing. Your criticisms were simply a litany of speech-policing complaints about trans terminology. Being a writer had nothing to do with it.

    And cut the victim posturing.

  • Relinquishedpain

    Very well said.

  • Relinquishedpain

    But that’s the point, society doesn’t see the nuances of how masculine or femenine you are regardless of your birth sex, society sees you as black or white, the world will tell you you are male or female, and that sex and gender are synonymous and that is something else we need to help change as well.

    And no, “Oh my god there’s a woman I’m going to rape her” isn’t the problem, if we are dealing in numbers and statistics, you have to also remember that the majority of sexual assault, rape, kidnapping, and other domestic violent crimes are commited by someone they know. So it’s not, “Woman! Must Rape!” it’s “Ohhhh, there’s sara.. she’s all alone, time for us to get to know eachothera little better whether she wants to or not.”

    Yes, strangers can and do push themselves on others, but more often than not, its someone closer to them. If we need anything, it’s a better mental health system, and perhaps we need to get people to be more open to the idea of seeing a psychologist, or sending a friend or family member to see one if and when warning signs become evident. Granted, this won’t help in every occurence, but so many times in the world, there are people who are very obviously in distress, and the world around them dismisses it as a phase, or they’re just going through a troubled time because of X, or, you know, he’s always just been a little quirky.

    There’s quirky, and there’s disturbed, and when we see someone in need of help, we shouldn’t be afraid to try and convince them to seek it, or take it a step further if things appear dangerous. There is a lot of paranoia and fear mongering over silly things like this, because the loud voices want it to be and stay that way so that they can keep their world the way they are comfortable.

    We’re not saying it’s an irrational fear, it is perfectly rational in all honesty. A warning sign goes off in your head saying something is not right, you are going to probably assume the worst, but don’t blow the whistle until it becomes evident that wrong doing is their intent. If you want to be able to protect yourself, there are all kinds of products, and training, and etc that you can go through and acquire to help in case of emergency, and especially in a ‘public’ setting, such as the shower, even something as simple as a whistle on a necklace will be more than adequate to deter lesser potential predators, and call for help if it becomes necessary.

  • Katherine Lobby

    Long-time post-op male-to-female transsexual here.

    John, I thought your original post was excellent. You stated the problem, obvious transman showering in man space, and your thoughts which defined the social problem. Please don’t stop writing about transgendered people. Everything that’s ever been written has offended someone. There are too many flavors of transpeople to please everyone with anything.

    Most transpeople with whom I’m acquainted are mostly interested in fitting within our gendered society in our preferred role. Rare is the pre-op male-to-female exhibitionist who would insist on showering in woman space. I think Mr. Pine was trying to make a statement, which is his right, although I think a better choice would have been to shower at home.

    Social theorists can argue about space for those who don’t fit the female or male category, either by choice or circumstance. For now, pragmatism is what most of us who are in-between choose.

  • Kes

    “The world sees us all as male or female, but really, is there anyone on this planet that has all the traits of a male, but no traits of a female and vice versa? What even can be said to be a purely male or female trait. Everything that makes us human is spread evenly between us all no matter what we look like, no matter what we believe and the sooner the world starts to accept that, the sooner we can get passed the whole… “Oh my god a man in the women’s shower! RAPE!””

    “Male” and “female” are biological sex designations, but you’re treating them as if they’re synonymous with “masculine” and “feminine,” which are entirely social constructs. ??
    I don’t think that “getting past” the idea of social gendered constructs is what will stop female people from being scared if a male person unexpectedly comes into a “female-only” space. I think that will come when we no longer have 1 in 3 female people being victims of sexual assault in their lifetime (sexual assaults which are perpetrated almost entirely by male people). Maybe, instead of acting as if women are being irrational when they’re afraid of somebody who looks male coming into their bathroom/shower, you could have phrased your post to instead say that when we no longer have folks saying “Oh my god there’s a woman I’m going to rape her,” we can get past this whole “sex-segregated spaces” nonsense.

  • Relinquishedpain

    That is exactly the right attitude to have. The vast majority of the time, people say things they way they understand, they may or may not know the proper PC terms to use, or how to use them, more often than not, they don’t mean offense. Unless of course, sarcasm is dripping from their tone. (But that is a different story entirely)

  • Relinquishedpain

    That is exactly the point, right there, there is no single policy that’s going to make things better in every situation, we have to push ourselves, and society in general to learn to accept and be open minded. Every situation is different, and every situation will be handled differently by everyone involved.

    So maybe, instead of making new laws and policies, we should be focusing on trying to help people understand one another, work on helping people forgive and forget the small stuff, if you don’t like the couple minding their business in the corner, don’t look at them, simple as that.

    If you feel that someone is intruding on what you percieve as your comfort zone, by all means, say something, but be respectful about it, maybe instead of asking management to remove the percieved sleight… take a chance, ask who they are, and why they are doing what they are doing.

    Strike up a little conversation, you might learn something, and if said person(s) make themselves directly offensive in the process, feel free to ask them to leave, if they refuse, say something to management.

    And on that same note, if you are the one on the offensive end, when someone confronts you about it, don’t be rude, take a moment to consider their position, try to explain your situation and help them understand, if they refuse to understand, then finish and go about your business, there is no reason to escalate a situation and make things worse by being an ass pardon our french.

  • Huh, very interesting response. Thank you. I will say – as someone who is somewhat sympathetic to the spa owner, obviously, that on gay issues, sometimes when folks ask us to tone it down, it’s simply their homophobia and not us “flaunting it.” A straight couple kisses in a restaurant and it’s ok, or on a plane, a gay couple does it and it’s a problem. Sometimes I agree that we may want to tone it down, other times, they’re holding us to a different standard, so in those cases, I don’t like to tone it down. It’s a tough call when we should tone it down and when we should stand up and yell.

  • Yeah I was wondering how it is in women’s locker rooms. In men’s, you change in the open and shower in a communal shower – at least the various gyms I’ve been to.

  • i’ve often said on gay issues, and I’ve lectured gay people about this – if someone is willing to discuss our issues with us openly and honestly, and is earnest in looking for answers, I’m not going to criticize them for using the wrong term during the discussion, asking something that we might consider rude (e.g., who’s the man and who’s the woman?) You just deal with it, nicely, and give an honest answer. It’s the only way people are going to learn, and eventually accept.

  • Don Chandler

    The place I had in mind isn’t a nudist group. It has a community area that lends itself to nudity: sun-bathing, sauna, steam-room, swimming pool, hot tubs and nowhere are there anything but non-gender specific bathrooms and showers. Naturally, it is not found on the East Coast ;) Clothing is optional in these community areas but few people opt for clothing. Men and Woman undress and dress in front of each other. The restaurant is clothing mandatory but not the library…. And the place would not survive if it had an issue with transgender: If I had to say one thing about the place, it’s all about health and healing and every human wants health and needs healing. Maybe that is the missing ingredient in our society: Health and Healing–we don’t even have national health care.

  • FLL

    Respectful discussion is always possible, and John’s post raises possible jumping-off points for further discussion, and his post also sets the right tone. The one danger that I have seen in the past is when participants in any discussion ask other people to jump through hoops, either for their benefit or for their amusement. As soon as someone says, “I want you to jump through this hoop for me,” respect goes out the window, and the discussion generally disintegrates. After reading the comments, I would suggest sticking to the substantive issues rather than changing the English language to our liking by substituting terms like “cis” for the usual terms “not” or “non-.” The very worst possibility would be to only use alternate terms on boards where there may be a higher proportion of gay and lesbian readers (and avoid using alternate terms on boards with a more general readership) because that would smack of double standards. And I’ve said many times that I’m allergic to double standards. Is anyone willing to reimburse me for the package of Claritin that I’d have to buy at the drug store? My modest proposal is to stick to substantive issues and avoid requesting anyone to jump through hoops, particular when the request is made very selectively.

  • Don Chandler

    Well, Harry and Cedric took a bath in the girls lavatory, although not together but also not entirely alone–moaning myrtle.

    So how are nude beaches different in Europe?

    Wow, 1 in 3 women are raped in the US??? What a grim statistic–do you have a stat for Europe? I don’t think this ‘reality’ would encourage a transition to gender-neutral bathrooms in the States. As you can discern, I’m not the first person to learn things but I’m not the last person either. I would sacrifice pc’ism for hard fact for the sake of pragmatism–it’s a good article because it addresses all concerns.

  • FLL

    The insights in most of your comment are thoughtful… until the very last part of your comment. I would advise you not to try to rework the English language. The word “not” and the prefix “non-” have been doing a perfectly adequate job in English for centuries, and you’re not going to convince anyone to rework all of the terminology meaning “not” or “non-” to your liking. People who are not trans are just that, “not trans,” or perhaps “non-trans.” I’m in agreement with your larger points, but if you want your fellow citizens—gay, straight or bi—to respect your arguments, it would be more effective to let the English language be.

  • Relinquishedpain

    Agreed on this note as well by the way, but personally, we still hold to the thought that the human race in general is more good than bad, and while avoided or ‘prevented’ possibilities of encounters or issues is a whole other realm in and of itsself.

    You know what, let us try to explain this a bit better. Alright, and this is going to be a question of your opinion vs ours and we are sincerely curious about this in regards to your views on the human race as a whole. When it comes to trans people of all walks of life, you are going to encounter different levels of openness and aggression regarding their status.

    You’ll have the extremists on one end screaming “This is who I am and you will like it whether you want to or not”, you’ll have the moderates, who are open about their status, but have that take it or leave it attitude about it, lesser moderates who are open with those they are close to but not the public, privates who keep it to themselves except for maybe their loved ones, and then you’ll have the ‘phobics’ who are trans, but want to avoid confrontation so desperately that they will act with aggression to the contrary.

    Lets disperse these people with the average of any other group, and send them all to the spa above.

    The extremist, would be the trans man in the article, he is a man, and he’s going to make the world accept him for who he is. He’s causing a scene by not respecting those around him by not compromising, he’s causing an issue.

    A moderate trans is also in the shower, but regardless if the spa knows of her inclination or not, she is respecting others, by using a private shower be it in the mens shower room or elsewhere.

    A lesser moderate trans doesn’t want the public to know, and has chosen to either use their sex’s shower, or a private shower as well to just not deal with the possibility of an issue arising.

    Private trans will respond in much the same way, or even go home to shower.

    Then lets throw a phobic in for good measure, a trans woman in the same shower room as the trans man, they don’t know eachother. The phobic has chosen to be one of those who complained to the manager because of the trans man being in the mens shower.

    Of the above scenario, how many of those crossed the line? Which caused an issue and which didn’t? Who was in the wrong?

    Trans people are everywhere, and you may or may not know, even those closest to you could be, and either hide it because they fear retribution, or they just don’t go out of their way because it doesn’t matter if the world knows, they are content.

    If an encounter happens, and ends with a trans choosing to avoid the possibility of negative consequences, is that even a problem?

    The only problems involved, are when people refuse to compromise, by all means, stand up, make yourself heard if you wish, be who you want to be, but when say, the manager of the establishment approaches you and asks you to tone it down because you are making others uncomfortable, just do it, be indignant, fine, but be respectful of those around you, maybe next time, find a facility whose staff/members are more open to you, or talk to those around you, and say, you know what, this happened, and it was unfair to me I would like to see what I can do to fix it so that it doesn’t become a problem in the future.

    We only have one world, and we’ve all got to learn to deal with eachother while we are here, and that goes for both sides of the fence, when you see someone skirting the line, then by all means, keep an eye on them, but don’t go screaming rape until they actually make a move.

    Gods we are off on a tangent here and we apologize for that.

  • Your contribution is excellent.

  • Relinquishedpain

    Honestly, think nudists probably wouldn’t discriminate between straight and LGBT individuals among their numbers unless they are specifically at a ‘couples’ retreat or area so to speak, and even then, they may or may not.

    As far as who to respect, it really depends on the situation, some private organizations, set up with the intent of gathering like minded people, may or may not want opposing viewpoints joining in, but there is a line to draw. At least in our opinion, if you want to say “This is my club, and I invite all straight men and women to come and relax”, then you should be free to do so, so lets take two examples of how the line could be crossed.

    An LGBT couple comes in, and it’s obvious that they are. Management ‘should’ respond, simply by doing nothing, they maintain a gathering place for straight couples, but so long as this one couple just relaxes, minds their own business, and doesn’t cause a stir, then why bother making a scene? If they respond with objection asking the couple to leave, then they risk descrimination charges if nothing else, which is still bad for business.

    If said couple comes in and starts spouting their views without prompt, and make a problem of themselves, then by all means, ask them to leave for being disrespectful, but until they cross the line, why?

    Like the topic of this article, the manager was responding to complaints by his members, and simply asked the trans if he would like private accomodations, there is nothing wrong with that, he responded appropriately at least in our opinion, and should not be facing reprimand over it.

    So where do we really draw the line? The line is there, it’s called common human decency and respect, whoever crosses it first is in the wrong regardless the circumstances. This doesn’t remove blame if the second party crosses it afterwards, but really? This is not as black and white as people want it to be, this is all grey area, and no one law or policy is going to fix it, we have to trust people to handle each situation as it arises, and when someone steps out of line, remind them that there is a line in the sand and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you believe, you cross it, you are wrong, and there should be consequences for that.

  • UncleBucky

    In Dallas? Wow, that’s going to be a difficult call. I don’t know. :(

  • UncleBucky

    Yep, and this is the crux of the issue. One can either accept the separate shower (the back of the bus) or one can say “no”. When the latter happens, it gets messy. But we got more ahead with MLK and Rosa Parks than with who said, “Oh, ok, sorry, I will do as you ask.”

    It’s still going to be messy, and some people don’t like messy outcomes. Well…

  • UncleBucky


  • UncleBucky

    Well, I am not disappointed with your contribution. While I am not a nudist (that is, comfortable being in presence of other people of any gender naked) in any way, I am intrigued on how to think about this. I can see both extreme aguments (gender neutral as well as naked environment where only a certain slice of life, as it were, is permitted to be naked, haha).

    There are some who are very polarized one way (same sex nudity only, and you better look athletic!) about this. Others who are polarized another way (gender neutral) about this. I want to see the middle ground, and I want people, like you, who speaks your truth, to speak clinically and hold emotional reactions for the time being in abeyance.

    I really thank you for your contribution. :)

  • It may have resolved itself previously but it may also not have been a problem because the trans person was afraid to go to the shower all together and didn’t go, or the trans person was kicked out and was afraid to speak up. Sometimes there are no reports of problems because problems are hidden, or ignored, not because they didn’t exist.

  • Well when you say my post is “mostly respectful,” that means part of my post is not respectful, which is the same thing as disrespectful. So my point stands.

    I’ve read the second to last paragraph in your original comment a number of times now and am still rather speechless. You’ve effectively taken away any ability of mine to even write about this topic with all these rules that I don’t even completely understand.

    And finally I’ve been writing professionally for a long time and I’m a good writer. I know good writing takes time, I learned that writing for the Economist, among others. That’s a lot different than being incapable of writing on a topic because people are so overly-sensitive about every word, and have so many incomprehensible rules, that you simply cannot write about the topic if you try to follow all of their rules that you can’t even understand. Some in your community are stifling a real discussion on your issues, then you complain that no one discusses your issues. You need to choose which you prefer. I happen to think discussion is helpful.

  • UncleBucky

    That’s a concise and direct way of saying one good opinion. And btw, vice versa, If a trans man is not yet post op, as a courtesy to the men who are unfamiliar with trans culture or uncomfortable for any reason, you stay out of the men’s shower (for example).

    BUT, we are examining how the minority is always taking a back seat to this majority “shower culture”, so to speak. Your statement (and my reversal of it) addresses the majority feeling, which is frankly valid, but not so nice in practice to the minority. How would you assess the problem of the minority trans people having to always accede to the majority in this case? :)

  • UncleBucky

    Yep, I think this is the perfect example of where a group has agreed that visible body types of all ranges should not be upsetting. I wonder, are there nudist groups that accept trans men and trans women? If that can be answered, then of those groups who are open and accepting, how have they learned to deal with ambiguous and/or unexpected body types among their numbers? They could help us all out.

    But on the other end of the scale, there are people who are very unaccepting of things beyond their strict interpretation of human forms and behaviour. Should THEY get to decide? I’d say no. But in a club, let’s say, where the are a majority (more than a majority) of these unaccepting people, whom do we respect, the trans man or the cis men (would that be right?) who are objecting?

    I mean, folks, I went to the Be-All Convention as a rep for HRC a few years ago, and it was a really educational and emotional experience, when individuals explained to me their situation, telling me their story.

    But how different is a nudist colony who agree that nakedness is neither a turn on nor a shocker from a group of males who have decided that they only want buff, 20-30-smth and straight individuals in their shower?

    As John (you) has been saying, we need to have more civilized and reflective discussion about these things.

  • kurtsteinbach

    I have been a member of different health clubs, and every single one I’ve been in since Boot Camp, has had individual shower stalls. It was like that in college and in health clubs. The locker/dressing area was open male and female. They had one large pool, a single large sauna, a steam room, and a single, large sauna. Problem solved. The only exception was at the men’s shelter. It was open, but their were only six shower heads and six guys at a time showered. Of course, it was a private shelter, run by a church (as all the shelter’s in Memphis are). It also cost $6 per night.

  • ARP

    Honestly, I think the Spa owner made an entirely reasonable call- he offered him/her (that may seem derogatory, but I don’t think it is) a private bathroom. Sure, it may be because he wanted to hide them or under the guise of some sort of separate, but equal construct, but it was a reasonable gesture given the ambiguous situation. I can imagine in some parts of the country, the reaction would be more severe. Once he/she is naked, other people may not fully understand he/she is trans (clothing creates a lot of cues for us) and freak some people out. I also think there’s a difference between the generic, mental sense of discomfort (e.g. “two guys kissing….ewwwww”) and not feeling safe because the person in the locker room is pretending to be a tranny. Also, you’re naked, so social taboos are amplified.

    I understand they’ve been persecuted and are sick of defending themselves and feeling the need to define themselves, but until they’re post-op, there’s going to be some uncomfortable situations and they should probably roll with it. I admit it’s a bit flippant,

  • kurtsteinbach

    If you watched the harry Potter movies and read the books, the girls could freely go into the boys dormitories, but the boys could not go into the girls dorms. The same is true here in the U.S. It is not just prudishness. Nude beaches in the U.S. are different than in Europe. I don’t know what the answer is either. But if someone who looked like a woman came into the guys shower at the Health Club where i go, some guys would like it (thinking like pigs they’ll get lucky, and some guys will be embarrassed and cover up). A few guys would get angry to have the effin’ fag removed, I’m sure. Women would be more accepting unless the trans-woman still looked like a guy. The statistic that 1 in 3 women are raped in this country is not lost on women, although some forget that 65% are by someone they know (remembering that 35% are strangers). The hopeful thing about this article is that hopefully others will look at this issue in a thoughtful, reasonable manner as well.

  • OK, I get the meaning now. Thanks

  • nicho

    I said they were accused of it.

  • Relinquishedpain

    We’re not saying that it won’t happen, or that it won’t cause a problem, quite the opposite. It will here and there, and each one will probably cause a media frenzy in the area, what we are saying is think about it. Yes, this one incident has happened and it was an issue, but how many times has something along these lines happened and was handled in a way that no issues arose? How many times has this happened where the trans accepted the accomodation and it was stopped there and no further word was said?

    It’s just like any other scenario that can go wrong, you’ll get one situation where things get messy over otherwise trivial issues, courts, and or police get involved, and it’s aired as a tragedy, or another example of why X subject is bad, etc. How many times has the exact same, or very similar situation come up where it was resolved quickly, efficiently and without a mess, that no one hears about or acknowledges because it didn’t become a problem?

  • I apologize if my comment seemed more like criticism than critical discussion. Certainly I had some critiques, but it has been drilled into my head that there is not one piece of writing above/beyond critique, including our own (I am a writer, too) and there were some language points I felt could be clearer. Nowhere did I say you offended me or were disrespectful- I said there was a resource available to you to continue your education on trans issues and how to write about them in the future. Also, you asked for trans people to chime in… so I don’t understand what I did ‘wrong’. In a way, I regret speaking at all, because it seems you have a fully-formed opinion that will be left unchanged by our voices. Why ask for our perspective if you are unwilling to engage sympathetically with what we have to say?

    I disagree that it is impossible for non-trans people to write about trans issues, but I do feel that you need to recognize that this is a topic you are not an expert on because it is not your lived experience (much the same that I recognize that I can’t adequately discuss, say, the experience of racism people of color face in society, or the experience of sexism that women face). While it is my place to write about race as a man (because it is not the responsibility of women to educate men about sexism), women are still the experts on the topic, and I would never venture to believe otherwise. Does it help us to have folks talk about trans issues? Respectfully, yes, absolutely — and I felt you were respectful here. But that doesn’t mean that even well-intentioned writers, friends, comrades, activists, can’t also be respectfully critiqued on points that could be expressed better. And if you’re complaining about the length of time it took you to write a post that didn’t cause offense, I really side-eye your efforts as an ally. Frankly. Writing on topics about vulnerable populations TAKE TIME, and that’s part of your responsibility as a writer, to be sensitive to that.

    On the topic of gender neutral bathrooms, I was quite clear about maintaining “women only” spaces (and, in light of there being gender neutral spaces I’d imagine *most* {although not all} trans people would prefer those spaces anyhow) but I also disagree that America will never accept them – gender neutral restrooms and housing are creeping into college campuses nationwide, setting the example for what this could pragmatically look like. But then again, under capitalism, sexism will continue to prevail and I doubt that we could eradicate it to the degree necessary for truly gender-neutral spaces. Also, why are group showers a thing? I can’t think of any reason why they should continue to exist as our shelters are transitioned.

    I’m sorry if this seems like an argument, but frankly, I’m disappointed in the way this conversation went.

  • “the EEOC extending Title VII to cover gender identity but not sexual orientation.”

  • That’s all you’ve got?

  • Squash!

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I didn’t say they were, pouty. Nor as my comment should have made clear, do I care anymore.

  • Ah, now we understand: You are channeling your inner Oracle of Delphi.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    More pouting. Poor wittle bwuised ego.

  • Twists forefinger on cheek, points toes inward, dips knees and asks coy, troll question. Please.grow away.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Stop pouting and grow up.

  • agreed

  • Sure but they’re mutually agreed upon by a minority of the population – nudists.

  • Keep at it….with our support, all the way, until it’s no longer a controversy.

  • The question sounded like you were being sarcastic, not serious. If you were being serious, then fine, it’s a fair question.

  • Good response. And it’s possible that the scenario will never arise where women will freak out, or a male to female trans person will be in a women’s shower at the gym/spa. But we already have a circumstance where someone female to male went to a spa and it caused a problem. So we can’t simply say, hope, that the issue won’t really arise, that we’re all worrying about scenarios that will never happen. It happened, and the spa owner is being sued. Good response though, and I do appreciate it.

  • I stil think it’s worth discussing, and it’s the only way trans rights are going to move forward is to discuss them. So I will, and people will get annoyed. What do you do.

  • Oh that’s interesting about the various locker rooms, I’d never heard of that.

  • Thank you, one with a sense of humor I hope.

  • It is true that gay people, and other civil rights advocates, get accused of the same thing – flaunting it, not accepting reasonable accommodations, refusing separate but equal treatment etc. So I’m sympathetic to the concern the trans person had. What I don’t yet understand is what solution works here, as I think the assumption that all trans people at all stages of their life, when in a communal shower, look like the gender they define themselves as, is a questionable assumption. But maybe it’s true – I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

  • True, but America is a violent and disturbed sexual culture. It will take time for transition. We both know that many European culture have accommodated public nudity

  • Don Chandler

    There are places where men and women shower in view of each other and there are no issues–sure, they are rare but serve as an example of gender coexistence…hotsprings, nudist camps, nude beaches, grocery stores in Scandinavian Countries…. The problem isn’t gay gyms, it’s that society is so squeamishness over nudity. I’m okay with trannies showering near me, but not on the sabbath, dude.

  • Relinquishedpain

    You know, we love a good troll.

  • One with a fig leaf?

  • What makes you think that trans folks are necessarily gay?

  • “the trans community has turned “cis” into an anti-gay slur.” For someone who waves her gay fan vigorously at every perceived slight, you must be always exhausted. Give it a rest ‘Mary.’

  • “Let people be who they want to be,” The very heart of it—-and Democracy in its purest form.

  • As usual you have your head so far up your hate butt you can see no light.

  • Your post was well done John, and you who have been around for a long spell know that just having an opinion on anything is disrespectful somewhere in the ether world. Thank you for bringing the subject up. It still remains a powerful and sensitive topic, but an important one to a significant number of our community, who are forging a new path of consciousness in the evolving culture of psyco/sexual/ gender identities. It will take some time for ‘correct’ semantics to be defined, but it is always worth the discussion and exchange..

  • Well done, sensitive and thoughtful thesis. But, I respectfully disagree that co-mingled facilities are viable, because America is a very violent, juvenile, sick and sexually perverted culture which is not generally evolved enough to insure the advance of shelters you would hope for the future.

  • nicho

    This whole issue raises important questions that need to be addressed as a society — gender identity, transgender, and the broader issue of our puritanical attitude toward gender, the body, and sex.

    However, I think it’s unfair to dump it in the lap of a small business owner who is just trying to run a business and who is finding other clients disgruntled, when the business owner probably isn’t up to speed on all the issues — as most of us aren’t.

    I think he was gracious to offer private facilities. He could have just told the person to get dressed and get the hell out, but he tried to find a middle ground. Good for him.

  • It’s simple. If you have a dick, stay out of the women’s shower until after the operation as a curtsey to women who are unfamiliar with trans culture or uncomfortable for any reason.

  • nicho

    Yes, I believe Martin Luther King was accused to the same thing.

  • He was offered a private shower. Consideration would have accepted. He chose to be an ideological exhibitionist to stir up controversy.

  • Relinquishedpain

    You know, well written points have been made all around, though everyone involved could benefit from the idea of intentional disrespect vs political correctedness. We live in a politically correct world, and because of it, no one will ever be satisfied with what anyone else says. Everything has to be phrased just so, and someone will take offense no matter how you say what you want to say.

    On a personal note, we enjoyed the article, it was well written to our eyes and we see no disrespect, only politically correct terms used in a direct manner.

    You do make a very good point though, our society as a whole, is paranoid. People fear what they don’t understand, and the LGBT community as a whole is not well understood by the loudest voices among the general populace.

    Sadly, ‘any’ transition towards general acceptance will be a long and arduous process, but those who believe in it, need to speak up. Even if it’s a simple ‘I support this’ everyone needs to chime in and show the loudest voices, and the law writers, the business owners, and the policy makers that things need to change. We are just like you, just like any other classification of people, we are all varied, divided, opinionated, and every other adjective you can use to describe a group of people.

    The world sees us all as male or female, but really, is there anyone on this planet that has all the traits of a male, but no traits of a female and vice versa? What even can be said to be a purely male or female trait. Everything that makes us human is spread evenly between us all no matter what we look like, no matter what we believe and the sooner the world starts to accept that, the sooner we can get passed the whole… “Oh my god a man in the women’s shower! RAPE!”

    For the record, we are trans, Genderfluid to be specific, and regardless what anyone says, we are content with that. The world be damned if we use a gender specific, or gender neutral bathroom/shower/facility. For those who wish to stand up and say “I am X and you will let me do what X does” we stand behind you, but you have to understand, you are going to be critisized for it untill the world opens their eyes, and if you want to open their eyes, you have to stand up for your beliefs, make a ruckus, just like this one, make yourself heard, and when the loudest voices scream “You can’t do that!” you tell them to deal with it. They can critisize and tell you know all they want, it doesn’t change who you are, it doesn’t change what you feel, and all they are doing, is blowing smoke.

    You want a policy to fix things? Let people be who they want to be, and keep track of the number of encounters, because we promise you, no matter how many times some mentally broken down individual does something stupid, there will be a thousand, a hundred thousand, even a million other instances where nothing happened and the media is just trying to blow things out of proportion and get their ratings up.

  • SteveGold22

    I think that John might be a bit quick to discount sexual attraction as the driving force behind gender segregation because “since we let gay men shower with straight men, so it’s not like the rule is to stop people from being attracted to each other in the shower”. At a number of gyms that I have belonged to over the years, the men’s locker room (sauna/steam room) has for better or worse been a popular place for same sex shenanigans so sexual attraction is clearly happening and having the exact undesirable outcome of sexual activity at the gym that most people want to avoid. The gender segregated locker rooms were created at a time in history where same sex relationships weren’t considered in the decision making process. In one spa I go to they just put up a sign in the men’s sauna that no sexual activity would be tolerated, nobody puts up that kind of sign if it isn’t going on. This being said I don’t have any idea what the answer is that will make everyone, particularly the trans community, happy. The new YMCA in my area already has FIVE different locker and shower facilities Men/Women/Boys under 18/Girls under 18/Family I guess a sixth “Non-Gendered” that anyone could go into wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

  • Ted in Dallas

    If I’m asking an interesting question, why am I considered a troll? Simply because I used the un-pc word “Hermaphrodite”??? Please. Grow up.

  • We shouldn’t be so quick to discard the issue of a person who appears female in a male shower – consider the possibility of being a man alone in the shower, and a naked female appears – what if she falsely accuses him of sexual assault? There are valid reasons for males to be concerned about the presence of a person who appears to be female showing up nude in their shower/locker room.

    Maybe the long term solution is to simply get our society over the whole nudity taboo. But as it is, we can barely share toilets with the opposite gender without belly aching and screaming.

  • Seems to me the gym provided a reasonable workaround – a private shower. That protects the apparently pre-op trans man from negative attention, and recognizes the concerns of the other customers. For someone post-op, as much as possible, they should use the same facilities – showers, locker rooms, as other people of their gender – post op male, use the facilities for males, post op female, use the facilities for females.

  • Or it may not vary person to person – we may just need to figure out what works here. Im not sure what it is. But I think those that suggest “just let everyone shower together” are missing a practical question of how that actually works. Guys may not like it, but women will fear for their safety if they see someone who they think is a man showering next to them. That isn’t something you can just ignore and say “too bad” – I’m not saying you’re saying that. I’m saying that this is a very new and confusing issue that needs to be discussed.

  • penpal

    I agree that in a place where there is nudity involved that no establishment can have a policy that merely allows individuals to do as they freely choose. It’s chaos in the making and it’s bad for business. It also puts the trans people at risk. But at the same time, we can’t allow businesses or the public make assessments about who belongs where based on what they can only see with their own two eyes. Many trans people do not want to disclose the fact that they are trans to everyone, which is completely understandable to me.

    It’s an interesting issue. And as we all work through our thoughts on this, we shouldn’t allow transpeople to shame us for what is an extremely new issue. No business can have a policy other than that they will provide full accommodations to trans people, but what that is varies from person to person.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Eli, this blog has had a full discussion about how offensive this whole “cis” nonsense is. Our gender is not “on this side” of anything. The choice of a term that sounds like “sissy” is demeaning to gay men. The imposition of a term on us without our consent is oppressive. And the trans community has turned “cis” into an anti-gay slur. Please show some respect for others and stop using it.

    Or did you imagine that only you get to be the speech police?

  • Skeptical Cicada

    It is impossible for gay men to breathe without being viciously attacked by the trans community. When they work through their anti-gay bigotry, they can let me know.

  • Ted in Dallas

    @Eli Mann…You missed the point entirely. I was just asking a random question. We are hung up on people who change their genitalia surgically. I was curious about how people feel about intersex people and the difficulties they may experience in a public setting. And really….hermaphrodite/intersex…who care what word you use? It means the same thing. Just as s**t and crap means the same thing.

  • DN

    I’m a cis man. I’ve been in locker-room-type situations with trans men many times. No big deal.

  • I agree about the troll factor, but it’s an interesting point in terms of another scenario to consider – I think all of these things need to be discussed or society will never learn about these issues.

  • First of all, it’s impossible for any of us to write about this issue and be respectful enough not to be criticized. I shouldn’t have even written about it – many of many political friends have simply stopped, because they’re tired of being criticized for being disrespectful. So while I appreciate your respectfully telling me that I’m being disrespectful, at some point, you guys need to decide if it helps you to have folks talking about your issues or not. Because this post took me far too long to write, because of having to go over every sentence five times, and still I’m told I’m being disrespectful.

    As for the pre and post opp questions, I’m a lawyer and these are real questions you need to deal with and answer, it’s the only way to fully discuss this issue publicly and figure out an answer. You look at different scenarios and you discuss them. And you don’t tell people that the scenarios are rude when in fact they’re real, and they will be considered by the court.

    Finally, putting that aside, I don’t see how America will ever accept gender neutral showers. I ‘ve been in gender neutral bathrooms with women – it was weird, the novelty of it, but it was fine. Showers, no way.

  • In reality, you are probably a troll. If you truly had an intersex condition, I assume you would have come across the phrase “intersex” by now and instead used that term. Not to mention that you wouldn’t even be asking this question because you would have been making the decision about which bathroom/shower to use since you were a young child (unless puberty induced your body changes, which happens sometimes). In the way of real advice, I would say: Continue using the facility you have always been using, the one that corresponds best with your gender identity.

  • Hi, John Aravosis, thank you for this mostly respectful coverage on this topic (at least your heart was in the right place), and you raised a lot of good questions at the end. A friend linked me to this article because you asked for trans voices, and so I’ll be writing from my perspective as a trans man roughly a year and a half on hormones (no surgeries- not that I would ever normally disclose this but it seems potentially relevant here), with sensitivity to things I felt differently about when my body was different and perceived differently by others. I’ll also be writing as a more politically-minded person than a personally-minded one. I try not to think about individuals, and instead see trends.

    To get this out of the way upfront: I don’t believe gender segregated facilities should be a thing. I believe that we should begin the process of slowly transitioning all facilities into gender neutral facilities, and I believe that gender segregation facilitates oppositional sexism (positing that “men” and “women” are “opposite” sexes; that is, rigid, mutually exclusive categories with no overlap in traits, physical or otherwise) and that, in turn, reinforces the traditional sexism society is saturated with (the devaluing of women, their bodies, their self-expression, and their experiences). (Think about the way men talk in the presence of only other men and tell me I’m wrong.) At the same time I argue that society is still unsafe for women (all women) and encourage “women only” spaces (inclusive to trans women, who are FAR more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence) be kept intact during the transitional process. (Effectively, we should begin transitioning all men’s rooms into gender neutral spaces. Men do not need their own “safe space”.) I do not believe new gender-neutral facilities should be built. A third gender-neutral facility is a *better* alternative to the dichotomized male/female facilities we have today (with the exception of prison- because if you build it, they will fill it), but it’s still not as good as transitioning our facilities away from being gendered spaces. I could write about this exhaustively and bore all of you though, so I’ll stop here. Basically this conversation about where trans people at different stages of medical transition “should” go about their lives would be a non-issue if we had the appropriate gender-neutral facilities.

    I personally do not use gendered facilities when I can help it. Thankfully I am now perceived as a man by others at all times (when fully clothed) and do not have to worry about the anxiety of choosing the restroom that holds the least likely chance for harassment on any given day- I can safely walk into the men’s room, do my business, and leave, and that is a luxury and privilege. But I would never shower in a men’s facility. I can get myself into the mentality of someone who would, though: I am a man, so I should be able to enjoy the same things that other men enjoy; by asking me to use a private facility, you are effectively othering me and telling me I am not “really” a man, which is a manifestation of cissexism (the devaluing of trans people and the authenticity of our identities). We don’t need more separate spaces, we need an end to the sexism and cissexism that pervade our society.

    This isn’t a new conversation we’re having. Think of how many facilities in our society are gendered: bathrooms, prisons and jails, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, some health care facilities, and so on. For each of these facilities, these conversations are being had. There is not a day in our lives when in which we are not impacted by gender segregation in some form, so this conversation should be on-going and ever-present. The real question isn’t about individual trans people and where we should go about our business, it’s about cisgender society making space for us in their minds, hearts and facilities, and showing us the respect we deserve by transitioning its shelters. There are so many ways we can structure our restooms, so many ways walls can be built and things can be modified, that I can’t think of any reasonable argument for why sex segregation should still be a thing. Stop making it seem like our anatomy/embodiment is the problem- oppositional sexism is the problem, and “you” are the problem if you are upset sharing a space with me. If I were making an advance on you, that is a problem absolutely but that is a problem without any respect to my gender expression — but if I am merely showering, how is that a problem (aside from the fact that we’ve all internalized some degree of oppositional sexism)? These are the real questions we should be asking and discussing.

    Lastly, you wrote about trans people more respectfully than many other writers, but I would still call attention to some of your words and phrases like “anatomically fe/male” “fe/male genitals”, “body of a woman that he was born with” (no one is born a fully-formed woman or a man- we are born itty babies), using the phrase “sex change” (as well as the phrase “opposite sex organs”), and defining people by their surgical status (pre-op, post-op)…. you should look into the assumptions that these phrases rest on. One reading I’d like to call your attention to is Dean Spade’s piece “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts” where he makes really clear suggestions for how to talk about bodies in ways that are even more respectful to trans people.

    In the interim time between today’s date and the day all of our shelters are transitioned, however, places that have sex-segregated facilities should take a clear and sensitive stance about trans (and intersex) people. (To take that a step further, I would say these need to be policies that are “in our favor” because those populations who are the most vulnerable are the ones whose needs should be prioritized- and trans people are part of a vulnerable population.) If this means that the establishment needs to make signs once their policy has been adopted (such as “This is a space that is inclusive to all women and all trans people who feel safe in a women’s facility” or some variation) so that cis people aren’t shocked by the gender or anatomical variance in their facility, maybe this is something owners of these spaces should consider.

  • Ted in Dallas

    I am a hermaphrodite and want to use a public shower at the gym. I have both male and female genitalia. Which shower room do I use?

  • I agree – this is a real issue for trans people. The ‘bathroom” or “shower” issue is something that’s often raised to try to scare people out of supporting civil rights bills that include trans people. So it’s a real issue.

  • I would agree, but if someone were a trans woman, pre-op and not on hormones, they wouldn’t have all sorts of body types, they’d have a man’s body. The issue then might not be trans intolerance because they might have no idea they’re dealing with a woman at all. I think a lot of woman would panic – I think every woman would panic – if someone with a pure man’s body got naked and joined them in the shower. You can’t deal with it when you have no idea the person is actually trans. And the next problem, what’s to stop a guy from saying he’s trans and joining the women in the shower. We can say that would never happen, but in a society where we mow down kids at school, some guy wanting his jollies wouldn’t surprise me. So what standards should the health clubs use? I’m trying to frame this in terms of practically speaking what kind of policy are gym and spa owners supposed to have and use that works.

  • nicho

    What a silly comment. Is your suggestion hat we prioritize all the problems of the world and then solve number one before we move on to number two? Then solve number two before moving on to number three? For the people involved, this is a real problem.

  • penpal

    36 year old gay man here. I think the issue is the public’s discomfort with people who don’t conform to body norms. My first reaction to this story was that private facilities are a good solution for everyone involved. But I can also understand the frustration of a trans person being sick and tired of that sort of treatment. I’m starting to think this is really other people’s problem and that they just need to deal with it. Some men have breasts. Some men have genital deformities. How would those men in the locker room know that a transman was even necessarily trans in the first place? People have all sorts of bodies and all sorts of genitals. They exist, and that’s life. Everyone else just needs to deal with it.

  • Kes

    It happens more often than you might think. There was a well-publicized case just a few months ago about a non-op trans woman who was using the sauna in a women’s shower room, and when a few teenage girls on a high school sports team (who were using it as their locker room) complained about the “strange man” in the room, the woman made a big stink about it and the girls’ sports team was made to move to a different (smaller) locker room.

  • What a great day it is that all the problems of the world have been solved and this is the only one left.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Sorry, but I suspended my active consideration of transgender issues when ENDA was sabotaged. Some of us warned in advance that there would be long term costs to that strategy. Here is one.

  • David Sean

    Clueless. Clearly the testosterone has gone to his head to do something so arrogant. I can’t think of any trans women I know who are pre or non-operative that would EVER attempt to use women’s group shower.

  • kingstonbears

    This is very complicated. What I’m wondering about, however, is how militant is the trans individual in the story. The fact that he/she was offered a private shower makes me question their attitude. Until the transition is complete wouldn’t you want to have a little privacy?

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