Missouri: Gym Targets Transgender Woman for Discrimination [UPDATED]

ARK in Waynesville discriminated against transgender woman Britny Rose -

A gym in Waynesville, Missouri is under fire for its deplorable treatment of a transgender woman. The ARK Community & Sports Center – a Christian owned business – reportedly targeted, insulted, and discriminated against Britny Rose based solely on her gender identity.

According to Rose, she visited the facility on January 3, 2017 to attend a spin class (as it’s the only gym in the area that offers them). For certain activities at the gym a membership is not required – but the class actually made Rose want to consider a full membership there. After she interacted with the staff, that all changed.

As she left the class, Rose explained in a video published to her Facebook page that an employee of ARK pulled her aside and asked her brother (who she attended the class with) if he could speak to Rose individually. Thereafter, the employee proceeded to make repeated references to Rose’s genitals claiming people could see she still had male genitalia and that it was making other customers uncomfortable.

When we spoke to Rose she explained the employee’s behavior.

“He said people had come to him expressing they could see my genitals and that he just wanted to let me know that until my operation I could not use their female bathrooms or locker rooms,” Rose said.

As Rose explained in the video now going viral, she wore a gaff that day which would have prevented anyone from being able to tell that she had genitals (let alone if they were male or female sex organs).

Moreover, she never investigated or used any of the gender-segregated facilities at the gym – locker rooms, bathrooms or otherwise – while there because she is already self-conscious about her transitioning body identity. For an employee of a business open to the public to target a transgender woman without cause, harass her, and publicly discuss retaliatory, punitive measures based solely on her gender identity is outrageous.

That the business informed Rose she couldn’t use their gender-segregated facilities until she transitioned is a serious violation of her civil liberties not only because of the assumption that all transgender people plan to transition, but also because the very question about what genitals she has (knowing she identifies as a woman) represents a serious breach of Rose’s privacy.

Unfortunately for Rose, gender identity discrimination is legal across the state of Missouri and Waynesville is not among the handful of local governments that offer LGBTQ non-discrimination protections. She may have the option to sue for sex-based discrimination, but she told us for the moment she wants to use this as a teaching moment. She stated:

“They were very wrong for what they did to me, but that I hope we can use this event to help educate more people about the everyday struggles of being trans in this area. This was very demeaning for me. I was pulled aside, but in a large gym where everyone was looking at me. In the end I hope that my story will help trans lives in the future because I firmly believe that transgender lives will not change until we educate people, and starting young so the next generation won’t have to deal with things like this.”

We reached out to the ARK Community & Sports Center for comment but received no response.

Here’s Rose’s video describing the encounter:

UPDATE [January 5, 2017 @ 9pm ET]

In a follow-up to the incident we posted about yesterday, we learned the ARK Community & Sports Center reached out to Britny Rose to open a dialogue about what happened and apologized for her experience at their facilities. In our interview with Rose yesterday she emphasized she wanted to educate the ARK about what she experienced and what it’s like to be a transgender person in rural America to prevent future incidents – and it appears she has succeeded.

“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again” is what the church behind the ARK told Rose in working with her personally to address how she was treated in working on a way to move forward.

This is one of those rare times in LGBTQ-related news where a Christian-owned business admits it was in the wrong in how it treated a member of the LGBTQ community and has worked to make amends. According to Rose, the church behind the ARK is working with her to educate themselves about transgender rights and how best to work with the LGBTQ community.

We’ve also learned through local sources that in addition to an apology the ARK has informed Rose she is welcome to use any of the facilities at their center should she choose to become a member.

Now that’s progress (and how a true Christian organization reacts to adversity and change).

Here’s Rose’s update video:

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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