Stella Maxwell
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Washington YMCA Turns Its Back on Trans Members Over Unfounded Fears

YMCA

On the heels of a new "bathroom bill" in Wisconsin and just days after bathroom usage became an issue for one transgender student in Missouri, a YMCA near Seattle is embroiled in its own bathroom battle.

The Y in Tacoma, Wash., attempted to make its bathroom policies more accommodating to transgender individuals, reported Seattle TV station KOMO. But the facility encountered a backlash from members, what the station called "a flood of phone calls, emails and social media postings."

So the YMCA recinded its new policy, which would have allowed transgender members to use the locker room of their choice. 

Those in charge of the athletic facility gave KOMO this explanation for the policy change: "a non-transgender individual might pose as a transgender [sic] to gain access to our locker rooms and expose themselves to children and cause harm to children." 

"We are asking that our transgender members use our private changing room at our family facilities," YMCA spokesperson Michelle LaRue told KOMO. 

The change and the reason for it were denounced by leaders of Tacoma's LBGT community. Michelle Douglas, executive director of Rainbow Center, told KOMO, called it "divisive."

"It's the wrong move," she said. "We really are in support of policies that let people choose the restroom and locker room of the gender that they identify with. Period."

Douglas told the station she worried the change would give members the false impression transgender people, or those in transition, are more likely to prey upon children.

"They're not linked, but it does link that in people's minds and it's incredibly offensive," she said.

Indeed, studies have found that transgender people are much more likely to be the targets of harassment and violence when using gender-segregated spaces like restrooms or locker rooms, rather than the perpetrators of such crimes. In fact, there has never been a verified instance reported of someone "pretending" to be transgender to enter gender-segregated spaces and cause harm to cisgender individuals.

Nevertheless, the false assumption that transgender people are deceiptful and have nefarious motives behind their desire to exercise basic human bodily functions persists, and continues to give rise to misguided policies and legislation that isolates and stigmatizes transgender people. 

Watch KOMO's report on the YMCA's change, below.

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