The purpose of most aquatics facilities is to serve the community — providing a place where locals can take a swim lesson, receive lifeguard training, or cool down on a hot summer day. And serving that community sometimes requires adjusting your ways of doing business to ensure that the community’s needs are met.
We've already tackled the origins of the transgender movement, as well as how transgender laws have impacted aquatics facilities. In this final installment of AI’s three-part series on transgender issues we’ll take a look at how aquatics facilities can meet those changing needs and protect their businesses from bad press, or worse yet, a lawsuit.
Know the Law
The best way to stay compliant with regulations pertaining to transgender locker room/bathroom access is to know your local laws. There is no national law that specifically guarantees or denies transgender people access to the restroom of their choice, so states have been left to quibble about it on their own. In March, North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which forces transgender people to use the facilities that match the gender on their birth certificate — not the one that matches their gender identity. On the other end of the spectrum, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker recently signed into law legislation that gives people the right to use public restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with the gender identities. This law goes into effect on October 1, 2016.
Websites such as TransgenderLawCenter.org and LambdaLegal.org are good resources to help stay informed about transgender laws. Another source for staying up-to-date on transgender laws in your state, is of course your local news media.
Education and Training
Once you’ve been made aware of your state regulations, the next step is to educate your staff about the law as well as organizational policies and procedures moving forward. Near the end of 2015, a Washington state regulation passed that allows people to select bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity. The Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation responded with a series of staff training sessions that focus on the best way to comply with the state’s new law.
The training is titled, “Understanding Gender Diversity in our Communities: All Gender Restrooms” and it was developed by Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights. “Its objective is to build competence in understanding transgender identities and the civil rights that protect all members of our community,” said Dewey Potter, acting communications manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation. He notes that participants learn culturally appropriate language and terms and are led through exercises to ensure positive and dignifying interactions with the public. They’re also trained on how to deal with confrontational scenarios in gender-specific facilities.
Shawn DeRosa, attorney and owner of DeRosa Aquatic Consulting, also recommends training employees about how to respond to questions concerning use of locker room or changing facilities. This training should also include role play scenarios to “give staff, including managers, the opportunity to practice in their own words, responding to patron concerns consistent with facility policies,” he says.
DeRosa acknowledges that a good rule of thumb to avoid attracting negative attention, from either inclusive or exclusionary policies toward transgender people, is to treat patrons with respect and dignity. And in order to generate a more 360-degree view of the issues concerning your aquatics facility, he recommends obtaining insight from transgender employees or customers by inviting them to participate in a facility review process. “[This] allows for the open communication of ideas among all parties,” said DeRosa. “[Transgender people] may offer a perspective formed in part by their own personal experiences that other persons involved in the project may not bring to the table.” This sort of collaborative effort puts facility managers in the best position to provide safe and inclusive facilities for all customers and employees, he says.