A Michigan appeals court has ruled that transgender women are not women and that a former Planet Fitness customer has a legal case against the chain of gyms.
The case dates back to 2015 when Yvette Cormier saw a transgender woman — whom she described as a “man” — in the women’s locker room of her Midland, Michigan Planet Fitness. She complained to management and warned other customers, which prompted the gym to cancel her membership for “inappropriate and disruptive” behavior. Cormier sued Planet Fitness for over $25,000 in damages, alleging that she suffered a violation of privacy, as well as embarrassment, humiliation, severe emotional distress, and damage to her reputation.
A Michigan lower court ruled against her and last year, a state court of appeals agreed that she suffered no intrusion of privacy.
But in April, the Michigan Supreme Court revived the case and sent it back to the appellate court to examine a legal question it hadn’t initially considered. And this time, the panel found that Planet Fitness violated its own contract with Cormier, but the ruling requires a foundation of transphobia.
Cormier alleged that Planet Fitness misrepresented the nature of its contract when it said that she would have access to a private women’s locker room but did not disclose that so, too, would “men who self-identity as women.” (The court conspicuously refuses to use the word “transgender” and repeatedly refers to transgender women with this phrase.) This inclusive policy would have affected her decision to purchase a membership and thus is relevant to her claim that Planet Fitness engaged in deceptive business practices.
“Plaintiff’s actions indicate that she strongly preferred a locker room and a restroom in which individuals who are assigned biologically male are not present,” the court wrote, “and it is thus reasonable to infer that defendants’ failure to inform plaintiff of the unwritten policy affected her decision to join the gym.”
In other words, the court agreed with Cormier’s perspective that transgender women are not women and that she never should have been expected to understand that a locker room for women would include transgender women. By not disclosing that it was taking the opposite position — respecting transgender people according to their gender identity — Planet Fitness was “failing to reveal a material fact” in an attempt to “mislead or deceive the consumer,” as the relevant Michigan law reads.
The decision again tosses the case back to the lower court for further examination. Cormier’s lawyer hopes to win the case there without a trial, but such a victory will require the lower court to agree to erase the validity of transgender identities.