27

This is the specific, unreferenced claim I'm referring to:

In Olympia, Washington, where the town has a SOGI provision, a man who identifies as a woman frequently uses the women’s showers and locker room at a local state college that shares its facilities with a children’s swim club. Despite frequent complaints about indecent exposure in front of girls as young as 6 years old, the non-discrimination law prevents the college from banning this man from the women’s locker rooms.

-- Tami Fitzgerald

Almost identical quotes can be found on Baptist News Global, an EventBrite event, Before It's News, Christian Examiner, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Charisma News (all dated fairly recently).

My question is simply: is the claim true?

I find it very hard to believe a transgender woman would be willing to expose herself, let alone to 6-year old girls. I also feel that indecent exposure laws would still apply, transgender or not.

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    I am not quite familiar with the subtleties of US morality: Is the "indecency" related to being naked in a locker room or is the problem that the appearance of the genitals is uncommon? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Mar 16 '15 at 17:21
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    @BigHomie: I think you are oversimplifying - (1) by calling her a man, and (2) by ignoring the complexity of indecent exposure laws. – Oddthinking Mar 16 '15 at 22:43
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    @oddthinking The article referenced states A man who identifies as a woman, I thought it best to stick to that description to avoid further confusion. I intentionally limited my indecent exposure definition to this specific example because Tor asked a specific question and I wanted to stick to Tor's question as much as possible. – MDMoore313 Mar 16 '15 at 23:01
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: to answer your question, US morality is such that it is not expected for what I will term "adult male genitals", regardless of the gender of their owner, to be on view either to women or to girls in showers and locker rooms. Avoiding that (and the converse) is high among the reasons segregated facilities are the norm. Whether putting genitals on view constitutes the specific offense of indecent exposure is a matter for the courts: in law, I expect it's not automatic since there's probably a mens rea which might vary by state. – Steve Jessop Mar 17 '15 at 0:43
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    @ChrisW: I think we can agree that having a naked penis and testicles in a women's change-room is uncommon. Whether it is indecent [exposure], is a question of local law, which in turn seem to be based on local morality codes. (I don't think this is a good forum to discuss what should be considered indecent, as much as I support such discussions occurring.) – Oddthinking Mar 17 '15 at 3:33
34

Yes, this appears to be at least partly true.

From a column by Todd Starnes in Fox News Radio:

“Little girls should not be exposed to naked men, period,” said David Hacker, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom. A group of concerned parents contacted the legal firm for help.

Hacker said a 45-year-old male student, who dresses as a woman and goes by the name Colleen Francis, undressed and exposed his genitals on several occasions inside the woman’s locker room at Evergreen State College.

Students from nearby Olympia High School as well as children at a local swimming club share locker rooms with the college.

According to a police report, the mother of a 17-year-old girl complained after her daughter saw the transgender individual walking naked in the locker room. A female swim coach confronted the man sprawled out in a sauna exposing himself. She ordered him to leave and called police.

The coach later apologized when she discovered the man was transgendered but explained there were girls using the facility as young as six years old who weren't used to seeing male genitals.

Later in the same article,

“Clearly, allowing a person who is biologically a man to undress and expose himself to young girls places those girls at risk for emotional distress and harm,” [Hacker] wrote in a letter to the college. “Any reasonable person would view this as dangerous to the young girls involved. The fact that this individual was sitting in plain view of young girls changing into their swimsuits puts you and Evergreen on notice of possible future harm.”

Starnes' article (going by the comments, dated November 1, 2012) references an October 5, 2012 news report (and video) by a Seattle TV station named KIRO-TV which might be the original source. The Kiro TV report however makes no reference to six year olds and only notes that high school swim teams use the facilities. Even the lawyer quoted in the Starnes article only mentions "young girls" being exposed to male genitalia presumably referring to the (17-year-old) high school girl(s) in the incident; only the apologetic swim team coach brings up six-year-olds being potentially exposed.

Going by the fact that a "group of concerned parents" took legal counsel, we can probably conclude that there were a number of complaints made to Evergreen State College. However, there do not appear to be any online reports (or updates) on this issue after November 2012 which suggests that there haven't been any further complaints.

This makes Tami Fitzgerald's February 2015 claim (in the OP) of "frequent complaints about indecent exposure in front of girls as young as 6 years old" very likely a gross exaggeration.

Other articles on this story include those on Seattle Weekly, an ABC News blog, and a piece (with pictures) in the UK's Daily Mail. Some of these articles refer to a Komo TV report (that I have been unable to unearth) which might have more information.


P.S. While I am unfamiliar with the process, comments below the Kiro TV story note that Colleen Francis appears to be undergoing hormone replacement therapy and a side profile in the video does reveal significant breast development.

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    The cited Fox article is written to stir up controversy by using "male student" and male pronouns to refer to a transgender female. The other three cited articles use more reasonable terminology. – 200_success Mar 16 '15 at 19:57
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    @200_success ... Maybe the article is written referencing his sex? That's what I do; everything's easier and less ambiguous that way. – AmagicalFishy Mar 17 '15 at 0:45
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    @AmagicalFishy, it certainly isn't any easier. In fact, the only thing it's doing is insulting this person's gender identity. – Arturo Torres Sánchez Mar 17 '15 at 7:17
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    @DevSolar - why the hell would you be disturbed by genitals identical to your own? That is borderline insane. – Davor Mar 17 '15 at 13:32
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    @DevSolar ... Uh... When I said easy, I meant—as the person who needs a pronoun to refer to someone—it's much easier to refer to the someone based on their sex and not their gender. Factually, using that as a standard instead of gender is heavily binary and less ambiguous. When I say "he" I say it because the thing I'm referring to has male genetalia, not because it feels like it should. If I see a penis in a locker room—it belongs to a he (assuming it isn't disembodied :D). If a person, fully clothed, looks like they have a penis—then I have only reason to say he. – AmagicalFishy Mar 17 '15 at 14:23

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