PORT TOWNSEND — An incident at Mountain View Pool has sparked debate in the community regarding the facility’s policies around bathroom and locker room access for transgender people.
Julie Jaman, 80, was permanently banned from the pool on July 26, after she confronted a transgender woman about her presence in the women’s locker room.
The ban resulted in protests outside the pool and more than an hour of public comment at an Aug. 1 Port Townsend City Council meeting, where commenters both for and against allowing transgender people to use facilities that align with their gender identity gave testitony.
The pool is managed by the Olympic Peninsula YMCA, which said in a statement the policies in place are governed by state law, and that Jaman violated the Y’s code of conduct.
“The Code of Conduct states that when members use YMCA facilities, they agree to: ‘Provide an atmosphere free of discrimination, hatred, derogatory or unwelcome comments, intimidation, conduct or actions based on an individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected status,’” Olympic Peninsula YMCA said in a statement. “It also states that the Y will not tolerate disrespectful words or gestures towards YMCA staff or others.”
The statement said Jaman violated the code and that the July 26 incident was not the first time Jaman had violated it.
“Jaman was permanently suspended to Mt. View Pool due to repeatedly violating the Y’s Code of Conduct, specifically, using disrespectful words or gestures towards YMCA staff or others; and abusive, harassing, and/or obscene language or gestures towards YMCA staff or others,” the release said.
Jaman disputed that version of events, saying she had never been notified of any past incidents, and that she was never specifically notified on the policy regarding transgender people’s access to the locker rooms.
“I was showering and I heard a man’s voice,” Jaman said. “I looked over and I saw a man dressed in a woman’s bathing suit, watching four to five little girls.”
Jaman saw YMCA staff member Clementine Adams, who works with the Y’s summer camp program.
Olympic Peninsula YMCA spokesperson Erin Hawkins said Adams was accompanying the girls to the restroom per the Y’s policy, which says staff are to always accompany children in a group of three so a staff member is never alone and children are never alone with each other.
Jaman asked Adams, “Do you have a penis?” and told Adams to leave the women’s locker room.
Hawkins said the YMCA takes pains to protect the safety of women and children, and said both staff and members who use the pool and other facilities must undergo background checks. Hawkins said it was also the way in which Jaman confronted Adams, saying she was shouting and using obscene language.
“After the pool manager heard what was happening in the locker room, she informed Ms. Jaman she’d violated the code of conduct and that she needed to leave the facility,” Hawkins said.
Police were called to the facility, but Jaman left before they arrived. Imediately following the incident, Jaman said she went to the Port Townsend Police Department offices, which are near the pool.
Jaman filed a police report of the incident but was critical of the department’s handling of the incident. She said the responding officer did not use an electronic recording of the incident when creating his report and inaccurately stated she had witnessed Adams assisting the girls with their swimsuits, whereas Jaman said Adams was only watching them.
PTPD Chief Thomas Olson said that, as an employee of the YMCA who’s passed a background check, it was reasonable to assume Adams was assisting the girls using the restrom per the requirements of the job.
“There’s a lot of inaccuracy around that particular description in particular,” Olson said. “I’ve seen like three to four different things on what Julie supposedly saw when she looked out of the shower.”
At the time the YMCA called the police about Jaman, Olson said officers had higher-priority issue to deal with than a trespassing violation, including a individual barricading themselves in a home and a potential hostage situation.
Olson said he’d received a number of calls asking why the department failed to respond to a report of a man in the women’s locker room, including some who suggested child abductions were taking place.
“There are people on both sides passionately addresssing the issue as they see it,” Olson said. “Just from our perspective, it’s not a criminal matter. They’re an employee, they’re doing their job, and they’re supported by their employer.”
The incident has gained attention outside of Jefferson County and has galvanized people on both sides of the issue of transgender rights.
Allowing people to access the facilities that conform with their gender indentity has become a divisive issue nationally, and individual states have passed laws alternately protecting or prohibiting access to intimate facilities based on biological sex.
Several critics of the policy — Jaman included — said if transgender people are going to be allowed to use the facility that aligns with their gender identity, then private facilities should be provided for people who may be uncomfortable changing in the presence of a transgender person.
The state law cited by the YMCA in defending the policy states, “If another person expresses concern or discomfort about a person who uses a facility that is consistent with the person’s gender expression or gender identity, the person expressing discomfort should be directed to a separate or gender-neutral facility, if available.”
Those kinds of facilities aren’t available at the Mountain View Pool, Jaman said.
There are some private bathrooms and changing facilities, Jaman said, but they must be accessed through a large common area that provides no privacy. Jaman said she had no way of knowing that Adams was a staff member and that she was deeply concerned by what she saw.
Hawkins said parents of children in the summer camp program were notified of the incident, and that no children have been withdrawn from the program since nor has there been any negative feedback from parents.
“Staff did talk to the parents of the two girls that were with the staff member in the women’s locker room after the incident with Ms. Jaman,” Hawkins said.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at [email protected]