Carlotta Sklodowska went to the Midland, Michigan Planet Fitness twice. She wore leggings and a baggy t-shirt to work out in, which she admits don’t hide her masculine body structure very well. Her only use for the locker room was to hang up her coat and purse while she exercised. As far as Sklodowska knows, she is the only transgender woman in her community, and that’s why she assumes she is the individual who sparked another gym-user’s outrage in recent weeks.
Yvette Cormier encountered someone she described as a “man” in that Planet Fitness locker room. “I wanted to know why there was a man in the women’s locker room,” she told CNN. “He [sic] looked like a man, and that’s what stopped me in my tracks.” Cormier complained to the front desk and then the corporate office, but Planet Fitness stood by its policy of gender identity inclusion. Unsatisfied with that result, Cormier returned to the gym every day the following week, constantly approaching other women to warn them about who she saw in the locker room.
After she spent four straight days complaining to others, Planet Fitness Corporate called her to express concerns about the atmosphere she was creating at the Midland location. When Cormier insisted she would continue to bring up her encounter in the locker room, the company decided that she was in violation of its trademark “no judgment” policy and revoked her membership. McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness’ public relations director, released a statement defending the actions taken against Cormier.
“Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members,” the statement read. “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.”
Cormier has painted herself as the victim. “I feel it’s kind of one sided,” she told MLive. “I feel like I am the one who is being punished.” Meanwhile, Sklodowska came forward just to make clear that she is not interested in harming anyone — to dispel the myths that Cormier has been spreading about transgender people, particularly given the amount of national press her story received over the weekend.
The story has now caught the attention of Michigan state Rep. Gary Glenn (R), who represents the Midland area and has a notorious history of opposing LGBT equality. He told MLive that Planet Fitness has an “anti-woman, anti-reality policy,” subtly suggesting that people boycott the chain. His wife was a member, but because “Planet Fitness has made clear it does not offer a family friendly environment,” he reports that “she will not be going back, and I imagine they’ll lose other customers as well.”
Glenn is also head of the socially conservative American Family Association of Michigan and, in addition to his anti-gay rhetoric, he has specifically claimed that LGBT nondiscrimination protections pose “a threat to the privacy rights of women and children in public restrooms and other public facilities.” He likewise believes that Planet Fitness should better display its policy of transgender inclusion because it “violates the privacy, comfort, and peace of mind of women.” Several transgender activists have indicated to ThinkProgress that they now worry Glenn will introduce legislation criminalizing transgender bathroom usage similar to bills under consideration in Texas, Florida, and Kentucky.
But Cormier’s story indicates just how backwards the situation is for transgender people. Studies have shown that when transgender people use the restroom, they are the ones who experience discrimination and harassment, not cisgender women and children. Cormier spent several days telling everyone at the gym to fear the clothed “man” she saw one time in the locker room; Sklodowska hung up her coat and purse.