Article by Rich Stuart, Oct. 29, 2015
On Oct. 5, the Tacoma area YMCA partially reversed a policy of opening locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms to the opposite sex, after alarmed members and citizens protested to YMCA officials. The policy, begun without notice in April, extended to 165,000 Pierce-Kitsap County members. It allowed any members to use the facilities of the opposite sex if they identified with that gender — no questions asked.
In speaking to YMCA officials, members emphasized that they wanted transgender persons fully included in YMCA activities, but that the private showers and bathrooms, which they were already using, provided the comfortable and correct alternative to the April policy. These private facilities are available to anyone with special needs, including families with young children.
Reacting to citizen input, the YMCA reversed the policy in the locker rooms and showers of nine family YMCA branches in the Pierce-Kitsap County Association. However, the policy remains in full force at the two downtown Tacoma YMCA’s and in all bathrooms of the family YMCA’s, so the fight is far from over.
A Brutal Week
On Monday, Sep. 28, word trickled out that a home school PE group had arranged that their locker room be cordoned off at a YMCA branch, after reports that a man was seen dressing in the women’s locker room.
Alarmed parents and citizens in the community feared that the plight of these children may not be limited to the one YMCA branch, but could be extended to people of all ages in all YMCA branches in the Pierce-Kitsap County Association. They saw also that anyone could abuse this policy by pretending to identify with the opposite sex to enter their and commit crimes of voyeurism, indecent exposure, and even worse. A man could even be present with an undressed girl alone at slow periods when no one else was in the locker room. Overwhelmed with shock and disbelief, the few parents and citizens who heard about the policy prayed, and then they acted.
The YMCA had given no notice and had placed no signs at the entrances of locker rooms and bathrooms warning members that they might encounter persons with the anatomy of the opposite sex inside. Overwhelmed with shock and disbelief, the few parents and citizens who heard about the policy prayed, and then they acted.
Citizens and members were urged to call the branch YMCA’s and the association office to ask if it was really true that members ‘identifying’ with the opposite sex could enter locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms — with no questions asked. The word spread to the local pastors associations, and they, too, called called YMCA officials to express their serious concerns.
At the end of the week, exhausted YMCA officials said they had fielded over a thousand phone calls. With four hours notice on Sunday, the YMCA used its website and social media to call an afternoon meeting with concerned members and citizens at the YMCA branch where the policy had first come to light. But only thirty members of the public caught wind of the meeting and attended.
Trying to control their anger, these concerned citizens told top YMCA officials that they should reverse the policy immediately.
Late the next day, Monday, Oct. 4, the YMCA officials returned calls to those who had left messages and announced that they had partially reversed the policy in the nine family YMCA branches, though it would remain fully in effect in the two downtown Tacoma YMCA’s and in all bathrooms.
Many questions remain to be answered. How could it have ever been law that required the YMCA to institute the policy as they claimed, if after one week they reversed a large portion of the policy? As for the rest, there are actual state laws against voyeurism and indecent exposure. These crimes are much easier to commit with impunity in locker rooms, showers and bathrooms where the policy is in effect, according to a Puyallup Police Department spokesman.
On Sunday, Nov. 1, concerned citizens will be meeting in Tacoma with the Family Policy Institute of Washington’s Grassroots Director, Danille Turissini, to learn how to carry this cause and others to the legislative halls of Olympia. If anyone wishes to attend, please contact Rich Stuart at [email protected].