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July 18, 2008

City forces TG woman to
dress in men's room

Cleveland--A city swimming pool has told a transgender woman that she must sign in as a man and use the men’s locker room to change into her swimsuit.

Karen Deamons of Cleveland has been swimming at the Cudell Recreation Center on the city’s west side since 2005. She swims there three times a week as part of her rehabilitation from a stroke that year.

Deamons says that there has been tension between her and Cudell management since she started swimming at the facility. But it has escalated in the last month, resulting in her being barred for a week, then being required to sign the men’s registry when she arrives.

She has filed a sex stereotyping complaint against the city of Cleveland. The complaint, filed June 24 with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, will be investigated by Gina Curry of the commission.

Deamons says she complied last year when Cudell told her to use the men’s changing room, but “it’s getting harder and harder” mostly because of the children at the facility.

During the day, Cudell is used primarily by children. It was built in 1964 and the men’s locker room has no doors on the stalls and no privacy in the changing area.

But the women’s locker room does have doors on the stalls, Deamons said, and she prefers to change in one of them.

Deamons, 52, is a former electrician, Paradise Club member, and former president of the Alpha Omega Society.

She has been undergoing hormone treatment for ten years, has legally changed her name and lives completely as a woman according to the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association standards, in preparation for eventual sex reassignment surgery. She has breasts and swims in a black one-piece women’s swimsuit. Because of the stroke, she uses a wheelchair.

She was in the men’s locker room on June 21 when a young boy came in and asked her why a woman was changing her clothes in the men’s room.

Deamons said all she could do was  ask him to leave the room until she was done.

But for her, that was the last straw.

On her next visit, she used the women’s locker room and was promptly suspended for seven days.

“It’s embarrassing, coming out of the men’s room,” said Deamons, adding that the city’s policy of making women use the men’s room is what is confusing the children and causing complaints among adults.

Cleveland’s swimming pools are open to the public and free of charge, even for non-residents. Cudell requires that guests sign in on sheets marked “male” and “female” before using the pool or other facilities.

The city is not commenting on the matter. Cudell manager Ron Fields would not discuss it.

City Parks and Recreation director Michael Cox also refused comment, although he noted that, “I have been dealing with this situation for a long time.”

Law Director Robert Triozzi said, “The City of Cleveland approaches with regard to its recreational centers and all its business a sense of fairness. We try to accommodate all people regardless of the issue.”

Asked what accommodation the city has made for Deamons, Triozzi said, “I’m not going to go there.”

Triozzi said he could not comment because the matter is now before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, but emphasized that the city “takes it seriously and has nothing to hide.”

Neither Triozzi nor Cox would say whether or not the city has a policy governing the use of its facilities by transgender people.

While Cleveland has ordinances barring discrimination by sex and by sexual orientation, it does not have any that cover transgender people, as do Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton and Oxford.

Triozzi would also not say whether or not there had been any complaints filed against Deamons by other Cudell patrons.

Deamons says that Cudell manager Fields has used them to justify the restrictions she has been placed under, though she has never seen them either.

Deamons said that a previous manager she knew only as Mary called her into the office shortly after she started using the pool, and asked if she had the reassignment surgery.

Deamons said it was after then that the tension with the facility started.

Triozzi said the city is preparing its answer to Deamons’ complaint.

 

 


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