Last week operators of gyms throughout the Rochester area said their policy allows everyone to use the locker room of their choice based on their sexual identity, but a transgender Somersworth woman and state rep said on Saturday she believes transgender women who display their penises in those spaces should be banned.
Gerri Cannon, who represents Strafford District 12, told The Rochester Voice it's all about respect and allowing everyone to feel safe.
"I feel that when using public facilities each of us has a responsibility to respect all others using them," she wrote. "If a man shows his genitals in a ladies locker room he ought to be banned from that locker room, even if they identify as a transgender woman."
Cannon made the remarks in a public comment section of a Rochester Voice story about a 17-year-old California girl who encountered an adult transgender male with his penis exposed in a Santee, Calif., Y's ladies locker room last month.
Cannon, who has been active in Somersworth politics for several years, said it's all about making everyone feel comfortable and secure.
"People both straight or transgender need to feel safe and respected in a locker room or restroom," she said. "I applaud businesses that respect an individual's right to self identify. I also expect them to enforce the rights of everyone to feel safe. Why would people come back if they don't feel safe?"
The policy that allows anyone to use the locker room of the sex they identify with is in place throughout the Greater Rochester area, including at the Granite Y in Rochester, The Works in Somersworth and Planet Fitness gyms nationwide, including those in Rochester, Dover and Sanford, Maine.
A debate regarding the policy was sparked last month when 17-year-old Rebecca Phillips complained at a Santee City Council meeting that she felt she'd been victimized when she stepped out of her shower after swimming laps at the Santee Y and saw a male walking around the locker room with his penis in full view.
"This is where I bring my five-year-old sister to enjoy the water slides," an emotional Phillips said at the 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 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 Rochester Voice reached out to several individuals from the Rochester LGBTQ community for comment on this story, but Cannon was the only one to respond.