Thursday, February 26, 2009

When biology isn’t necessarily destiny at the gym

A St. Catharine’s fitness Club owner is being taken to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for refusing (or for post-poning a refusal depending on your side of the issue)a pre-op transsexual man use of the women’s change room at his fitness club.

The Toronto Star:
The owner of a St. Catharines, Ont., fitness club says he has opted to go to a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario hearing in a dispute initiated by a transsexual. The complaint alleges John Fulton denied a pre-operation transsexual access to the women's only areas of his gym. The transsexual – now a woman – was a man at the time of the incident two years ago.

Following a closed-door mediation hearing Wednesday in Toronto, Fulton said he has opted to go to the tribunal rather than settle. Fulton says he wasn't sure what to do when the pre-operation transsexual applied to join because his female clients might not be comfortable with a man in their changing room. Fulton, who denies ever refusing to allow the complainant to use his club, said a date for the hearing hasn't been set. "I have not said no," he said Wednesday. "The person, who is actually post-op now, is welcome to come and use the club."

Fulton said it all started when he decided to open a women's only section at his fitness club. A few days later, a woman came in, filled out all the paperwork and just before signing said she was a man, he said. Fulton said he called the tribunal and was told he had to let the man use the women's facilities, but he said he couldn't get an answer on what his rights and the rights of his female clients are. "I had to find out what my women's rights were," he said Wednesday.

This story went online at last night at 6:19 pm and comments were closed by 7:53pm. Gee, what a surprise.

This issue actually touches me indirectly. The gym I (sometimes) attend is located on the edge of an area in the downtown which is commonly referred to by the locals as ‘Boytown’. As such a great many of the local gay and lesbian community use the facilities. I don’t care who comes and it is a very clean well run facility. I use to go to an all-women’s gym but it was poorly run and the equipment was often in a state of disrepair. The deal breaker for my patronage was the decided lack of cleaniness and erratic opening hours. Nothing like standing outside in the middle of a Canadian winter at 6 am waiting for the slacker staff to show up to open the club.

I picked my new gym because it was clean, well-run and maintained a separate facility/space weight room set aside for the exclusive use of women. Women were free to use all areas of the gym but I appreciated having a separate weight room. Nothing says pinched back nerve like attempting to pull off 100 lbs weights off a bar.

This brings me to the changing facility. I would definitely object to sharing a change/locker room with a man(men). Call it my inner Taliban asserting herself but I am just not comfortable changing in a co-ed room or a gym where change/shower room facilities use was designated according to personal individual gender identification rather than a more traditional category of which physical sex you belong to. Although, once the operation was completed and said transsexual was a fully function woman per say, I don’t have a problem nor do I care.

So what to do? One can suggest dismantlement of the HRT but this issue won’t necessarily go away. Any potential plaintiff only needs to have the funds or backing of a larger organization to pursue this matter thru the civil courts and it is only a question of when and not if, before the matter comes before a civil court for litigation.

So again, what is the solution? Is it reasonable for club owners to offer three change/shower rooms with one designated as ‘co-ed’ at their fitness clubs or do away completely with sex-designated change/shower rooms? And what about patrons like me – do I have any rights in this issue? I suspect the only right I have is to patronage or not. That being said - anyone know of a well-run and maintained Muslim or Orthodox Jewish fitness clubs in downtown Toronto, because as far as I know - only religious organizations have the right to openly discriminate in Ontario.


shlemazl said...

Ha! Always knew I was more liberal than you! I would have no objection whatsoever to women using male changing room in my gym.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Shlemazl, since we both are ESL, let me suggest perhaps the word you are looking for is not so much ‘liberal’ but libertine.

Forumlibrarian said...

I see the above posting about wifi and comments

One can say they are calling there self their inner taliban, but if that is the case , they same-sex nudity would have to be completely unacceptable which is isn't to most people talking about privacy.

Some women have no hair, some have the breasts removed to cancer, some are born inter sexed and confused for the opposite gender because people are used to and assume the typical male or female. That is why discrimination laws exists. For the record, I am new yorker not a Canadian, so I am sure the things are different in America between our conservative and liberal parties and maybe in some ways the same but things seem to be different at different paces and laws and the system.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

I have to admit to being a little confused with your comment and I am not sure I am understanding it at all – the grammar is a tad confusing to me.