This Gym's Response to a Trans-phobic Customer Was Excellent

March 11th 2015

Laura Donovan

Planet Fitness in Midland County, Mich., wants nothing to do with banned member Yvette Cormier, who made a fuss when a transgender individual started using the women's locker room. Cormier's reaction didn't fit with the workout center's "judgment free" policy, so her membership has been canceled. 

Late last month, Cormier went to Planet Fitness to exercise and was surprised to see a transgender person in front of the women's locker room. 

"I was blocked, because a man was standing there," Cormier told Michigan Live. "It freaked me out because why is a man in here?"

Cormier brought the encounter up to a front desk worker, who explained that the person identifies as female. This wasn't the answer Cormier wanted, so she confronted Planet Fitness's corporate office about the situation, only to be reminded of the "judgment free" policy, which applies to all Planet Fitness locations across the country. "Planet Fitness is known for a lot of things – our low prices (and all the stuff you get for those low prices), our Lunk Alarm, and of course, our Judgment Free Zone," the gym official website states. "We’re fiercely protective of our Planet and the rights of our members to feel like they belong. So we create an environment where you can relax, go at your own pace and just do your own thing without ever having to worry about being judged. This is your Planet. You belong."

McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness's PR director, said in a statement that "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."

Regardless, Cormier felt unsafe and started telling other ladies in the locker room about the transgender individual. Corporate got wind of this and called Cormier to say she was violating the "judgment free" policy, causing a stir with other members, and engaging in gossip. Cormier refused to quit spreading the word and in turn lost her membership.

"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 canceled," Gosselin said of Cormier's membership termination. 

Though Cormier said that she was being "punished" for feeling unsafe, ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan told MLive that it's dangerous for transgender women to be limited to the men's room, "A transgender woman would be much more at risk for her safety if she had to use the men’s bathroom."

Carlotta Sklodowska went on to speak with MLive for a follow-up story to say she believes she's the transgender to which Cormier referred in early reports. Though Sklodowska isn't actually a member of the gym, she went as a guest twice and even asked a Planet Fitness employee which locker room to enter beforehand.

"You use the locker room that corresponds with how you are dressed," she claims the Planet Fitness worker said. So far, no one else has complained about Sklodowska using public restrooms, but she says she feels like the only transgender person in Midland.

Transgender acceptance in the United State is continuing to grow. A 2011 study from the Public Religion Research Institute revealed that nearly 90 percent of Americans believe transgender individuals should have the same protections and rights as others. Discrimination is still rampant, though. Results from a 2011 survey titled Injustice at Every Turn found that 63 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming people reported feeling discriminated against based on their identity, and 41 percent revealed having attempted suicide. 

Last year, a high school in Louisville, Ky., sparked controversy after a student who identified as female started using the girls bathroom. In 2013, Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh (R) tried to pass a bill that would have required transgender individuals to use public locker rooms, showers, and restrooms based on their birth gender. The proposal, which infuriated LGBT rights advocates, ultimately was dropped as Kavanagh felt it needed "a little more work" and Governor Jan Brewer (R) vowed not to sign off on any measures until she saw progress on the state budget.