Michigan Woman Sues Planet Fitness Over Trans-Inclusive Locker Room

Michigan Woman Sues Planet Fitness Over Trans-Inclusive Locker Room

Yvette Cormier, the Midland, Mich., resident who received national attention after her Planet Fitness membership was revoked following repeated complaints about seeing at trans woman in the women's locker room, is suing the fitness chain, reports The Saginaw News

Claiming, among other assertions, that she experienced emotional harm, damage to her reputation, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract, Cormier is seeking more than $25,000 in retribution in Midland County Circuit Court. Her suit relates to the March 4 cancellation of her gym membership, a decision the Planet Fitness Midland location's management made in line with its "no judgment" nondiscrimination policy — which includes allowing gym-goers to use the locker room that accords with their "sincere, self-reported gender."

Cormier, 48, says she was unaware of this policy when she spotted someone she thought was a "man" — local transgender woman Carlotta Sklodowska — in the women's locker room February 28. After being informed by her gym's staff as well as the Planet Fitness national headquarters that the woman in question had not violated any policies, Cormier returned to the gym for four consecutive days to "warn" other cisgender (nontrans) women that trans women were allowed to share the women's facilities. On the fourth day, Cormier was told by staff that, due to her behavior, she no longer had a membership.

Planet Fitness's decision made headlines nationally, prompting Sklodowska to come forward to The Saginaw News to clarify that she meant no harm. "I'm not actually a member. I was there as a guest of my friends," she said, adding that she had asked whether she could use the women's locker room prior to entering and had only used the facilities to hang up her coat and purse. The gym's policy would still have protected her had she used the locker rooms to change clothing.

Responding to Planet Fitness's claim that her behavior had been "inappropriate and disruptive to other members, [in] violation of the membership agreement," Cormier told the media she acted of concern for her own safety and that of other cisgender women and children — a claim she repeats in her lawsuit.

"I feel [the policy] is kind of one-sided. I feel I am the one who is being punished," she explained to the News, noting that she wished the policy had been made explicit to her when she signed up for a gym membership. She later added to CNN, "I didn't go out to specifically bash a transgender person that day. I was taken aback by the situation. This is about me and how I felt unsafe. I should feel safe in there."

Cormier's safety claims draw on imagery often decried by trans advocates as inflammatory and baseless: that of predatory trans women who enter public women's facilities to threaten others' safety or privacy. In reality, however, trans people far more often face serious safety issues in public bathrooms and locker rooms and are more likely than their cisgender peers to be harassed or physically attacked in gender-segregated facilities.

Cormier's lawsuit was filed by Kallman Legal Group the same week the Michigan Civil Rights Commission endorsed model legislation for statewide nondiscrimination protections that would include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, notes Zack Ford at ThinkProgress. The commission had already begun urging legislators in November to add sexual orientation to Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act — a move the House considered in December (in addition to a bill that would add gender identity protections as well), but ultimately failed to pass, according to ThinkProgress. Cormier's lawyers state in a press release that her case "further illustrates the potential harm caused by adding the proposed new categories of sexual orientation/gender identity" to the Civil Rights Act.

Planet Fitness has declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. Meanwhile, legislators in several states are advancing bills targeting trans citizens' access to public and school bathrooms, showers, and dressing rooms, drawing on arguments similar to Cormier's. Proposed laws in Minnesota and Texas target trans students (with a similar law in Kentucky failing this week), and laws in Texas, Missouri, and Florida would target trans citizens using public restrooms — with the latter state's legislation recently passing its first two committee votes in the House.

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