The coastal California city of Santa Monica recently launched online training for all municipal employees working at pools, gyms, and school locker rooms to ensure public facilities remain transgender- and non-binary-inclusive. The training’s creator hopes to offer it to states, schools and businesses nationwide.
The online training, titled “Everybody Changes: Respecting Gender Diversity in Changing Rooms” contains 13 different modules and lasts a little more than 30-minutes. It goes over topics like terminology, the consequences of anti-trans discrimination, respectfully navigating pronouns and resolving misgendering.
The course also uses videos re-enactments to show the potential dangers of publicly misgendering or outing trans people, how to handle complaints and harassment from other patrons and actual trans and non-binary people sharing their experiences of showering in public sports facilities.
Santa Monica has been using the training since last year. Here’s a video providing an overview of the course:
The creator of the course, longtime trans educator and public speaker Scott Turner Schofield, tells Outsports that the course is meant to ensure the safety of all patrons, not just trans and non-binary ones.
”The first roadblock to inclusion in sports is the locker room,” Schofield says. “If you don’t feel like you can get changed to go out into this field, you can’t participate.”
He points out that butch lesbians and cis men with long hair have been discriminated against by public facility employees and patrons in the past. While adults can sometimes help others understand how to better accommodate people with different gender expressions, he says it’s unfair to expect everyone — and children in particular — to do this.
“Since locker rooms are the first barrier to trans people accessing a sport — or just fitness in general — creating safe access in locker rooms has the potential to positively impact the health outcomes of the trans community at large,” Schofield says, “It seems like a small thing, but it’s a really big deal.”
While California law currently guarantees trans people access to public facilities matching their gender identity, the training’s creator explains, “Passing laws doesn’t always change minds or attitudes.”
In the course, Schofield says:
”Even though people are more supportive than ever of non-discrimination protections and of gender diverse people generally, society as a whole hasn’t quite caught up to legislation that protects gender diverse people in changing rooms and restrooms. Most people lack education about gender diversity and they often have reactions based on media stereotypes but not on reality. Fear and ignorance lead to tension and sometimes even anger among guests.”
In one segment, Schofield himself discusses how bathroom bills have needlessly alarmed people about sexual assault when, in reality, trans people have been uneventfully using public bathrooms for decades, and they are the real victims when it comes to assault in those spaces.
UCLA’s Williams Institute found that 70 percent of trans people have reported harassment in restrooms and changing facilities. Nine percent of those who reported harassment said they suffered physical violence.
Meanwhile, only 17 states and 200 cities across the U.S. have explicit protections guaranteeing public accommodation access for trans and non-binary people. Two hundred may sound like a lot, until you note there are nearly 20,000 cities in this country, and that means a mere one percent.
Right now, the training includes an option for companies, schools and other organizations to have their own private access, along with in-person trainings for management and staff and phone support.
Schofield hopes the course will one day assist people working in states and cities with trans-inclusive public accommodation laws as well as help individual educators and private companies, such as gyms, who want their policies to protect transgender people even though their state laws may not.
”Trans people are often isolated by our difference, and more often living outside of our bodies,” Schofield says. “We feel like we don’t belong anywhere, not even in our own body. Being able to just get changed so that we can exercise, or play a team sport, changes that. Which can be profound.”
Schofield continues, “The trans community, bearing so much discrimination — especially kids in schools — really needs that change, that healing. So starting by educating the people whose job it is to keep the locker room safe for everyone seemed the most practical way to break through this obstacle, and start getting my community playing, happy and healthy.”