Operators of gyms throughout the Northern Seacoast told The Rochester Voice this week that their policy allows everyone to use the lockerroom of their choice based on the sex they identify with.
The policy is designed to protect transgender individuals who are transitioning from one sex to the other, but the practice drew scrutiny last month when a 17-year-old California girl complained that she had been victimized when she stepped out of her shower at the Santee, Calif., Y, and saw a male walking around the lockerroom with his penis in full view.
"This is where I bring my five-year-old sister to enjoy the water slides," an emotional Rebecca Phillips told the Santee, Calif., city council during public input at their January meeting. "This is the YMCA, where hundreds of children spend their summer afternoons in childcare camps. This is the YMCA where my little sister took gymnastics lessons. The locker room was supposed to be her safe haven to gossip with her friends, and shower and change."
Phillips said when she asked the front desk what a man was doing in the women's lockerroom "they (Y staff) acted like I did something wrong," she complained to city council.
The Strafford Y, The Works of Somersworth and Planet Fitness all follow the same policy as that of the one in Santee, a San Diego suburb, which allows folks to choose which lockerroom they use to shower and change based on the gender they identify with at the time.
"We are committed to diversity and inclusion," said Jamie Demetry, vice president of marketing and communication for the Granite Y. "We allow everyone to self identify, and to use the lockerroom that corresponds to their gender identify."
Demetry said men's and women's lockerrooms at Granite YMCAs all have privacy spaces available and they ask all their members and guests to be "respectful."
Adam Bagni, director of external communication for Mass General Brigham, a partner with Wentworth-Douglass Hospital which owns The Works, said they also allow members to self-identify to the lockerroom of their choice.
"The Works is committed to providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all of its members," Bagni told The Rochester Voice on Friday.
Planet Fitness did not provide a statement to The Voice, but has repeatedly acknowledged that their judgment free zone philosophy extends to their lockerrooms, too.
Phillips criticized the policy as being wrongheaded and a violation of women's privacy at gyms nationwide. She said her father called the Santee Y to complain and was told that his daughter had nothing to fret about.
"They told him I was never in any danger, that I was safe, but I ask you this," she told the Santee City Council. "Assuming all of you have a wife, or a daughter or a granddaughter, could you knowingly send an underage girl into a room where there was a naked male and say she was not in danger, that she was safe, or more importantly, that this was right?
"The fact that we our tailoring our privacy policies and bathroom laws around transgenders, ignoring the blatant threat to safety that this poses, is obscene."