Oh, Planet Fitness, I love you so.
Personal story: I’ve been a member of Planet Fitness for years, and one of the things I like about it is that people leave me alone. No one tries to sell me personal training sessions or fitness juice, no tries to hit on me. It’s clean, no frills, and the people are nice. I go in, work out, and go home. The fact that its $10 a month (so if I don’t go for a while I don’t feel guilty) is an added bonus.
And apparently I have more than just personal reasons to love Planet Fitness: a recent story out of one of their Michigan locations has been making national headlines, in the very best way.
Here’s What Happened
Earlier this year, Planet Fitness member and cisgender woman Yvette Cormier briefly saw a transgender woman in the locker room at her Midland, Michigan Planet Fitness facility and took offense.
According to reports, Cormier immediately complained to the front desk staff, who said that their corporate policy expects people use the locker room that aligns with their gender identity. Not satisfied with that answer, Cormier continued to complain, and got the same message from Planet Fitness’ corporate headquarters. She then took it upon herself to return to the gym every day that week and tell other women that there was a “man” in the women’s locker room in an effort to, as she put it, “warn them.”
“Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere, self-reported gender identity.
The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.”
Brava! This response makes me proud to be a Planet Fitness member.
But I, Too, Am Part of the Problem
There’s clearly a problem in Cormier’s argument. But the problem goes deeper than just bullying behavior.
When I listened to the interviews with Cormier, what I heard was fear, confusion, and ignorance. Cormier’s interviews were littered with “he” and “he/she” when referring to the transgender woman, and obviously appears confused about the difference between gender and sexuality. She expressed concern for her safety over a “man” being in the locker room—a common note of anti-trans* rhetoric, despite studies that prove trans* adults are at far higher risk for being harmed in a bathroom than cisgender adults.
It’s exactly this kind of apprehension about the unknown that gets many people hung up on assumed anatomy, and using it as justification to keep people out of places they belong, from bathrooms to boardrooms. As someone who has to pee always (maybe it’s the coffee) I can’t imagine having to stress about whether I’m going to get hassled using the restroom with the dress on it.
I have to admit, while I consider myself an LGBT ally, I’m not as well informed of the transgender experience as I should be. GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has handy guides for trans* allies to start, and thanks to this news story, I watched some of their videos and read several articles on their Trans* Allies page.
The Bottom Line
I champion Planet Fitness’ stance because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it brings awareness to an issue that a lot of people, including myself, don’t know as much about as we should. I hope that Planet Fitness’ action challenges other people to open up, ask questions, and do research, when it comes to gender identity.
As a Planet Fitness member and a cisgender woman, what can I do? I can work harder to be supportive, and confront my own ignorance when it appears.
I am so happy that Planet Fitness agrees that people should get to be who they are, and should have access to facilities they need. Unisex restrooms are a good addition to company policies that allow patrons using the single-sex restroom that aligns to their gender. And companies that make an effort to embrace that reality for both customers and employees will keep my support!
Emily Rabbitt is a freelance and fiction writer in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a Massachusetts native, iced coffee enthusiast, and marathon runner, and tries to be a good citizen of the planet. Follow her on Twitter: @rabbitterun.