On September 27th, Evergreen College in Olympia Washington had both security and the police called due to a claim of a man in the women’s sauna. What security found was a transsexual man-to-woman in the adults-only sauna room, by herself. The woman, a student at the college named Colleen Francis, has been regularly harassed by a variety of people ever since.
The women’s locker room at the college is open for youth swim clubs to use, and a group of these underaged team members had been using the locker room unsupervised, which is against college requirements. While in there, several of these girls apparently saw Ms. Francis in the adults-only sauna. They reported her to one of the lifeguards, who sent one of the clubs coaches in to investigate. Finding Ms. Francis, they requested her to leave the sauna.
Following this, the coach called security, requiring that police get involved, and it began a nightmare for both the school and Ms. Francis. By law, Ms. Francis had the right to not be discriminated against due to her gender identity. By law also, the school was expected to accommodate people of all genders equally. The allowing of swim clubs to use the college pool freely is now in danger of being eliminated due to the clubs inability to follow procedure or control their members.
As a temporary measure, the school is now allowing the clubs to utilize a secondary locker room, along with offering changing curtains if asked for.
The problems for Ms. Francis however are still mounting. Due to the pre-operation nature of her transition, she externally presents herself as a male, and many sites have attacked her as a result. To transition from male to female is a multiple-year procedure, and with Ms. Francis only starting the transition 3 years ago, she is still not fully physically presented as female, causing considerable confusion for those with narrow minds and bigoted mentalities. Having witnessed people making this transition over the years, it is not something flippant that one decides on a whim. The process is actually quite frustrating, physically painful, and emotionally draining.
What happens for a transgendered person requires years of hormone therapy, physical conditioning, psychological evaluation, as well as actually living as the target gender for several years. This is all before surgery, which is expensive and not covered by insurance plans. Some people can never afford surgery before their age eliminates the option as doctors consider it too risky for the body to handle. Ms. Francis is in her 40’s, on the high-end for the surgery, so if and when she ever does have it now is a grey area due to doctor concerns for her health. This author has known someone who did have the surgery, only a year older than Ms. Francis, who did not survive the experience. It is a risk not all are willing to take due to the potential risks involved.
There are a large number of people in the world who do not understand those who are transgendered. Some act with confusion, others with hatred, and yet others use it as an opportunity to act as a high school bully. In all cases, it is a form of bigotry, and has no place in civilized society. If you are confused by transgendered people, the International Foundation for Gender Education is a good resource to start with.
As for the swim club members and their parents, it is regrettable that the parents failed to educate their children as to the realities of gender in this world, that things are not a simple binary between male and female. It is even more regrettable that they then forced this ignorance on to someone else, someone who was different from them. In the modern world, the question of gender identity, something so personal that it literally is a question only the person themselves can ever answer, should never be up for ridicule.