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ILC: Transgender Rights, Privacy in Locker Rooms

In today’s email, I’m going to talk about what is clearly a sensitive topic - the issue of transgender people using health club locker rooms. My intent is to provide some help to you on this sensitive topic and to ask for some help from you.

This is not a new issue for clubs. One of the earliest briefing papers we did contained the question, “What do we do when a man dressed as a women wants to use the locker room?” The answer then was to use the sex specified on the person’s driver’s license to guide what locker room to send them to. These days that advice is virtually useless because eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that - to different degrees - make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered individuals.

So when we get an email from a club operator asking us what to do when a member of their club told them he was transitioning from a he to a she, the first thing we do is reference the law in that state and see what it tells us to do. We have created a chart that summarizes the transgendered laws in the US. If you are interested in receiving the chart, please let me know via e-mail.  

Since these transgender discrimination bills were first introduced, IHRSA has been working with legislators to help them see the importance of protecting the rights of transgendered individuals AND protecting the privacy rights and standards of modesty for health club members by exempting locker room and bathrooms from the provisions of the law. But times are changing. In Massachusetts, where IHRSA has been able to convince the legislature of our position since 2008 with bathrooms and locker rooms exempt, it appears that they are re-examining the  locker room exemption. So we have been working to develop new ways to provide assistance for clubs. IHRSA has requested that if the law passes,  regulations should be written to provide guidance for clubs when dealing with the competing issue of privacy rights and transgender rights.

On Tuesday, IHRSA met with the Judiciary Committee’s office to discuss the need for the guidelines. Here’s where we need your help. We need to get back to the Judiciary Committee staff with examples of situations in the club. Don’t worry if you aren’t located in Massachusetts, this is an issue across the country and we need to hear from all of you. If we are able to develop helpful guidelines in Massachusetts, it can serve as a guide for the rest of the country. In addition, IHRSA is developing resources to help you deal with this sensitive issue  when it comes up in your club. Your answers to these questions will be extremely helpful in helping us develop more and better resources for you on this issue.

Given the sensitive nature of this issue, I’m not asking you to fill out a survey form. I’m just going to list some questions that it would be helpful to hear from you about. Just send an email reply and I will keep the source of the information confidential.

Here’s what we would like to know:

Have you had any situations involving a transgender member or potential member?

If you did, how did you resolve the situation?

What questions or concerns do you have? (Either that you can anticipate or you have experienced.)

If you could change the law on public accommodation in your state, how would you have it read?

Remember, just send me an email to let me know you would like a copy of the transgender law chart. If you can take a moment to reply to any or all of my questions, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks so much for your help.



Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy

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