A Trans Man Walks Into A Man’s Spa…Have You Heard This One Before?

December 13, 2012

National

levi pine

this jacket is fab!

Meet Levi Pine.

Levi is a trans man who lives in Chicago and does union organizing. He seems like a good person.

And he’s not trying to invade women-only space, even though I’d welcome him (as he’s actually Female).

It’s Levi’s “actual Femaleness” that led Levi to cross my desk. The Windy City Times reports that Levi has filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights for gender identity discrimination.

And what happened?

Apparently, Levi was told that because he has a vagina, he cannot get naked and shower around naked Men. Specifically, management at King Spa & Sauna told Levi that he could not use the spa’s men’s shower area. Management told Pine he could either use a private shower or leave because Actual Men complained they were uncomfortable showering with a Female.

A manager named John at the Spa said he recognizes that transgender people are a minority and that he treats all of his customers the same – but he didn’t want other customers to feel uncomfortable.

Because the Men using the club – who are Male and are in a Men-only space – have an expectation that they can get naked in a space that legally excludes Females.

This seems reasonable to me. Men have a right to organize as and with Men, and have their own space.

But does Levi have a claim?

Joanie Rae Wimmer, credited as the attorney behind the first successful transgender case under the Illinois Human Rights Act, says yes.

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I say YES!

What does Illinois law say? Illinois bans discrimination based on “gender identity” through its definition of “sexual orientation,” which defines it to include “gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.” See 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-103(O-1); 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-102. Oh, that’s helpful and not at all useless (this is me being sarcastic. We’ve discussed the problem with this definition here).

Wimmer correctly notes that the Illinois Human Rights Act does make exceptions for the case of “sex” in locker rooms, health clubs and other settings. But Wimmer believes that exception only applies to “sex” and not to “gender identity,” two different protected categories.

And what does Illinois law actually say?

Illinois law provides that the Human Rights Act does not apply to “(a)ny facility, as to discrimination based on sex, which is distinctly private in nature such as restrooms, shower rooms, bath houses, health clubs and other similar facilities for which the Department, in its rules and regulations, may grant exemptions based on bona fide considerations of public policy.” 775 ILCS 5/5-103(B). That is, the law allows businesses like a spa to establish a boundary based on sex for facilities “distinctly private” in nature.

Remember how we have talked about the head-on collision between gender identity and sex? What Wimmer fails to acknowledge is that Levi’s presence in the Man-only space violates the rights of each and every Man in the Man-only space to have sex-segregated space.

It is precisely this question that state human and civil rights agencies must address – who wins, in a battle between Sex as a protected class and Gender Identity as a protected class? Should Levi’s right to shower with his vagina out trump the rights of those Men to only shower with bepenised persons?

I would like to personally thank Levi for filing this claim. I think it’s far more likely, because Levi is actually Female, that the Men-only position will win. That result will benefit Females making the case that our right to have sex-segregated space trumps the right of a Man who feels like a Woman to penetrate that space.

As always, looking forward to seeing how this all unfolds.

https://twitter.com/weare991/status/278567367406141440

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About Cathy Brennan

Gender Atheist.

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41 Comments on “A Trans Man Walks Into A Man’s Spa…Have You Heard This One Before?”

  1. doublevez Says:

    Yes definitely we should thank her. I agree. Every possibility she’ll make history for her sisters.

    And the jacket too. Wow she’s got great taste, and what’s going on above her glasses? Love it.

  2. FCM Says:

    yes this is interesting isnt it? hopefully females will be the accidental beneficiaries of misogyny and male supremacy here….but frankly im not counting on it. looking forward to seeing how this pans out — and how the court could possibly spin this so that it only applies to not allowing females in male locker rooms, and not the other way around. stranger things have happened, im sure.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Another factor I didn’t mention in the article is that, according to Levi, this is a “Korean spa” – by which, I assume he means, Koreans own and operate the spa.

      • Carolyn in Baltimore Says:

        This is a certain type of spa. Usually attended by families and a center of Korean life. There are separate changing areas for males and females, and a pool and steam area usually also segregated and everyone is naked. Then there is often a family area where people read etc and separate saunas where people are dressed simply. You can get massages also.
        There is a huge one in VA that I’ve been to. A great day.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        I am familiar. I am curious as to why this person thought this fact highly relevant. http://bug-brennan.tumblr.com/post/37904218282/wondering-how-long

      • joeybrite Says:

        The Korean factor is very important to help legally support the business if this is the case: Korean culture can be used as basis for pitting ‘Western’ privilege against ‘traditional Korean family values’ in a setting where nudity is in play.

  3. FCM Says:

    BTW i like the new theme!

  4. hearthrising Says:

    I can’t think of a reason for the sex-segregation exemptions to the law except to forestall just this sort of thing. Was there another reason for these exemptions?

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Many permissive restroom laws exempt restrooms from state anti-discrimination statutes. See HAW. REV. STAT. § 489-4 (2011); IND. CODE § 22-9-1-3 (2011); KY. REV. STAT. ANN. § 344.145 (West 2011); MD. CODE ANN., STATE GOV’T § 20-901 (West 2011); MICH. COMP. LAWS ANN. § 750.146 (West 2011); NEV. REV. STAT. § 447.135 (2011); R.I. GEN. LAWS § 11-24-3.1 (2011). Others apply broadly or to specific locations. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 381.0091 (West 2011); 60 ILL. COMP. STAT. 1/155-10 (2011); MONT. CODE ANN. § 49-2-404 (2011); NEV. REV. STAT. §§ 338.180, 444.048 (2011); N.J. STAT. ANN. § 26:4B-1 (West 2011); N.Y. MULT. DWELL. LAW § 76 (McKinney 2011); OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 3767.34 (West 2011); R.I. GEN. LAWS § 32-7-11 (2011); TENN. CODE ANN. § 4-24-301 (2011); TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 341.068 (West 2011); Wis. STAT. ANN. §§ 66.0919, 106.52 (West 2011).

      Justice Marshall stated what is possibly the reason for judicial reluctance to interfere with sex-segregated restrooms: “A sign that says ‘men only’ looks very different on a bathroom door than a courthouse door.” City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 468-69 (1985) (Marshall, J., dissenting).

    • bugbrennan Says:

      The need for privacy justifies separation and the differences between the genders demand a facility for each gender that is different. . . . In the end, distinctions in any separate facilities provided for males and females may be based on real differences between the sexes, both in quality and quantity, so long as the distinctions are not based on stereotyped or generalized perceptions of differences. Faulkner v. Jones, 51 F.3d 440 (4th Cir. 1995).

  5. hearthrising Says:

    I also wonder about the spa’s ability to protect this and other transmen from rape using the men’s facilities. Obviously, it isn’t worrying this person, but I can see how it would concern the management. I realize that rape and sexual assault need to be addressed on other levels, but in the meantime aren’t the owners leaving themselves open to some serious liability issues without sex segregation? Or do liability issues not apply here?

  6. DavinaSquirrel Says:

    So, of nearly all the occurances in the past, an M2T wants in to a female changing room, and the M2T is granted access because of gender identity and the females have no right to privacy from laydeewangs. But, an F2T wants in to a male changing room, and suddenly everyone is worried about the males’ privacy?!

    Females apparently have no right to privacy, even though they do have biological vulnerability (and make up the majority of sexual assault victims), but males do have a right to privacy, even though they are almost never sexually assaulted by females. I guess (“bio”) sexism is alive and well – either that, or this whole ‘gender identity’ business is a complete scam to give males access to female spaces.

    • FeistyAmazon Says:

      Yep, you hit the nail on the head, cuz men’s spaces are sacrosanct, have always been, but we’re the fuckable, touchable caste, so men(and ex men) should ALWAYS have access to us, whether they got a ladystick or not!

  7. Becky Green Says:

    I haven’t shaved in months. My hairiness is making me “feel” incredibly manly, so I’m making a beeline for the men’s showers.

    “Hey bro, pass me the soap. Stop staring at me dude, it’s so uncool.”

  8. DavinaSquirrel Says:

    Do we suspect that Joanie Rae Wimmer is perhaps formerly Johnny Ray Wimmer?
    (I really could not keep a straight face typing that – nice hairline dude, doesn’t give you away AT ALL, nope)

  9. mary moses Says:

    great story….wondering how this can be used to stop the madness in MD with the push next session for G.I. legislation…….

  10. joeybrite Says:

    If I didn’t live in the SF Bay Area where every lesbian who presents a more ‘masculine’ identity is assumed that she ‘should’ have her breasts surgically removed and begin the regular injection of the poisonous testosterone to try and pretend she’s actually a male, I would think this story a hoax. But it reminds me of the letters I’ve read in our gay & lezzie press here where some self-Identified faggots (yes- that is a politically radical identifier – it means that the person views themselves as an oppressed group that has taken that label with pride to be used only by themselves & their supporters, of which I am one), where these gay men are saying how disgusted they are to go to a sex club or private sex party and while shopping for some real cock, a vagina gets placed in their faces. They want these ‘transmen’ to stop invading their spaces, and I support that. They have a right to actual biological male-to-male sex contact without concern that this will be disrupted. To me it’s no different than when a straight man filed a suit against an all-female gymnasium in SF and won for being discriminated against as a male. We now do not have any female-only gym in SF because of that lawsuit now over a decade ago. I really think that this is madness and that the injection of testosterone has fried many a female brain into thinking like the ‘poor, oppressed male’ who ruined it for us females in SF. As a lesbian feminist and a former longtime Lesbian Separatist, this whole situation appalls me. It’s about money in the end. Who gains by all this? Big Pharma. Think about it. word.

  11. Nicole Says:

    There should be separate trans showers–outside with a hose–so they aren’t in anyone’s eyeline.
    trans”women” and trans”men” = oxymoron.

  12. FeistyAmazon Says:

    trans showers, I like that…..one for bio men, one for bio women, one for MTF trans, one for FTM trans..but then you’d have the MTF’s and FTM’s mucky it all up, cuz there’d be the MTF’s still retaining penises, so you’d have to have another one for those who don’t, and most of the FTM’s still retain their cunts, so you’d have to have a very small shower for those who gone all the way and got a stick sewn onto them…..

  13. FeistyAmazon Says:

    but if it takes 6 diffferent showers abd shower/locker rooms; it takes 6 showers/ locker rooms!

  14. Kitty Says:

    This is complicated isn’t it? But it is when a man becomes becomes a transwoman s/he needs to think of the consequences for all of their life. It is correct that many many women do not want to share locker rooms, changing facilities, toilets, saunas etc etc with transwomen and I think that should be women’s right not to have to do this unless they consent to this. Any transwoman would be respectful of this. However it is looking for trouble (I am not victim blaming here) I mean actually looking for a cause when a transwoman gets upset that s/he can’t shower with men!

    What is Levi trying to prove here. I wish her no harm but is this really a cause worth fighting for? Really? I bet there are other issues that could be fought for. Just stay away from “korean spas” and go else where where Levi is welcomed and safe!!

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Levi thinks Levi is Rosa Parks. Levi has been sold a bill of goods that Trans is a civil rights issue. Levi is well-intentioned. Levi is horribly mistaken.

  15. aSpinninSister Says:

    …..i just wish womyn could keep the men ( read: trans male impostors) out of Michfest (Michigan Womyns Music Festival !

  16. BadDyke Says:

    “I’m a woman cos I say I am, and I should be able to go into the laydees changing room and parade my stuff, no matter who is in there……..” Recent M2T in swimming pool changing room.

    Response: It’s only the women, they can hide behind a curtain…………..

    “I’m a man cos I say I am, and I should be able to go in the mens showers, where I belong….”

    Response: we’ll see, it’s all COMPLICATED, and we can’t have the MEN getting upset…………

    ” I’m equal worth to a man (cos I say I am), and I should get equal pay and equal promotion prospects…………..”

    Response: Dream on. Bloody feminists………………

  17. Sara Says:

    What really upsets me is that this bizarre legal sideshow, and other cases like it, are being bundled with gay and lesbian civil rights. For 40+ years, we fought for basic protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and now, thanks to the contrivance of “LGBT” there can be no gay civil rights unless they come bundled with bizarre, exotic, and ill-defined provisions covering situations like this. LGBT is the single greatest mistake that the gay/lesbian rights movement ever made.

  18. Pamela Brown Says:

    I know some transmen and they have problems like this , but usually there are ways to accomadte everyone w/o anyone being put out or made to feel uncomfortable . No one has a right to not feel uncomfortable , but why impose yourself on others where you are clearly not welcome .

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