Bryan Ellicott identifies as a man, an identify confirmed by his driver’s license, but that didn’t stop three New York City Parks Department employees from refusing to allow him access to a men’s locker room at a Staten Island pool last July. He has now filed suit, seeking to enjoin the Department from engaging in such gender identity discrimination in the future.
According to Ellicott, “they harassed and humiliated me,” and he was given the choice of either using the women’s room or leaving. The suit alleges that “at no time did the employees of the Parks Dept. cite any law, rule, or policy to justify their actions.”
New York City’s Human Rights Law affords protections based on gender identity, under the umbrella term of “gender”: “The term ‘gender’ shall include actual or perceived sex and shall also include a person’s gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth.”
Nevertheless, Ellicott’s experience highlights the fact that New York state law still does not include gender identity protections. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act continues to languish in the New York state legislature and is expected to once again fail this session. New York is one of only four states that offers protections for public accommodations (like pools) based on sexual orientation but not on gender identity.