PORT TOWNSEND — A Port Townsend City Council committee prepared a statement affirming the city’s support for transgender people amid an ongoing debate around transgender people’s access to locker rooms and bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
The draft statement will be presented to the full council for consideration of approval at its next meeting on Monday.
A controversy around the issue began in late July when 80-year-old Julie Jaman was banned from the Mountain View Pool in Port Townsend after she confronted a transgender woman about her presence in the locker room.
The ban resulted in protests outside the pool facilities and more than an hour of public comment at an Aug. 1 Port Townsend City Council meeting during which speakers gave impassioned statements both for and against allowing transgender people to use the locker rooms and bathrooms of their choice.
Speaking to a meeting of the Culture and Society Committee, City Manager John Mauro said the city had received a number of questions about the incident and the city’s policies regarding the pool.
“A lot of incorrect information is circulating,” Mauro said before reading prepared answers to questions sent to the city.
Mauro said the answers would be posted to the city website shortly after the Wednesday meeting, and he hoped the responses would, “raise the level of sophistication,” around the matter.
As part of the city’s response, Mauro said the policies in place at the pool were covered by the city’s contract with the Olympic Peninsula YMCA, which manages the pool, and which were governed by state law which allowed transgender people to access facilities that conform with their gender identity.
“This person in the locker room was a vetted staff employee for the (YMCA),” Mauro said. “The YMCA has been in contact with the parents of the children in the program, and there have been no complaints by the parents of the children in this matter.”
City officials and representatives from the Olympic Peninsula YMCA cited state RCW 162-32-060, which says transgender people must be allowed the use of facilities that align with their gender identity.
They also said Jaman violated the facility’s code of conduct.
Opponents of the policy say such rules put women and children at risk of sexual assault.
Jaman previously told Peninsula Daily News she became extremely upset on July 26 when she was showering in the locker room and heard what she said was a man’s voice, and saw a transgender woman alongside small children. The person Jaman saw was Clementine Adams, an employee with the YMCA’s summer camp program who was escorting the girls to the bathroom according to the camp’s policy.
Olympic Peninsula YMCA spokesperson Erin Hawkins told PDN on Monday all employees must pass background checks before working at the pool facilities.
On Wednesday, the city council’s Culture and Society Committee prepared a statement for approval by the full council, affirming the city’s support for transgender people and stating that discrimination or prejudice of any kind is not welcome in the city.
“The City of Port Townsend values our transgender residents and visitors and urges all residents and visitors to be respectful, welcoming, and kind to everyone regardless of gender identity,” said the statement, written by Mayor David Faber.
“I further proclaim that discrimination and prejudice, in any form, especially against transgender people, are unwelcome and have no place in the City of Port Townsend.”
The statement cited several studies that say transgender people are more likely than others to be the victims of sexual assault and that crimes against transgender people have increased in recent years.
The proclamation cited a University of California Los Angeles law school study that found transgender people 16 and older were four times more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, and U.S. Department of Justice data that states hate crimes against transgender people increased 587 percent between 2013-2019.
The council’s Culture and Society Committee refined some of the language in Faber’s statement on Wednesday before approving it to be sent to the council.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.