Seattle Parks and Recreation is facing a first-of-a-kind challenge to gender bathroom rules. A man undressed in a women's locker room, citing a new state rule that allows people to choose a bathroom based on gender identity.
It was a busy time at Evans Pool around 5:30pm Monday February 8. The pool was open for lap swim. According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, a man wearing board shorts entered the women's locker room and took off his shirt. Women alerted staff, who told the man to leave, but he said "the law has changed and I have a right to be here."
"Really bizarre," MaryAnne Sato said. "I can't imagine why they would want to do that anyway!"
Sato uses the locker room a few times a week, but she says this is a first for her. It's also a first for Seattle Parks and Recreation. Employees report that the man made no verbal or physical attempt to identify as a woman, yet he still cited a new rule that allows bathroom choice based on gender identification.
The issue drew protesters from both sides to Olympia on Monday. Opponents claim the rule opens up bathrooms to voyeurs but supporters say that's an unrealistic fear.
No one was arrested in this case and police weren't called, even though the man returned a second time while young girls were changing for swim practice.
"Sort of works against the point they're trying to make. They're causing people to feel exposed and vulnerable with the intention of reducing people feeling exposed and vulnerable," said pool regular Aldan Shank.
The man's protest, if that's what it was, hurts the greater cause, Shank says.
As far as policy to protect everyone, Seattle Parks spokesman David Takami says they're still working on the issue. Right now, there's no specific protocol for how someone should demonstrate their gender in order to access a bathroom. Employees just rely on verbal identification or physical appearance, and this man offered neither.
"This didn't seem like a transgender issue to staff – someone who was "identifying" as a woman," Takami wrote in a statement to KING 5. "We have guidelines that allow transgender individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. We want everyone to feel comfortable in our facilities."