Letters: ‘Self-identified gender is your choice’

Editor, The News:

Re: Pool change room policy in works (The News, March 24).

After concerns have been raised regarding a transgender woman utilizing the change room of her choice at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, I would like to address some of the comments made by members of the public.

Lifeguards and aquatic supervisors are highly skilled not only in first aid, pool safety protocols, pool chemistry, and as swimming instructors, but also possess in-depth experience addressing difficult and challenging public relation situations.

I can personally vouch for this as I have guarded for over five years and am also an aquatic team lead.

Most recreation centres including pools were built decades before LGBTQ issues were recognized, and as such, our facilities are not structurally designed with their needs in mind.

Similarly, most older facilities are considered by modern standards to be inaccessible to people with physical disabilities because accessibility standards have changed over time.

While suggesting transgender individuals should utilize the family change room may make some people feel more comfortable, it not only does not address the root of the problem, but further marginalizes members of the LGBTQ community, specifically, in this case, transgender people.

Though it may seem obvious from someone’s physical appearance that they are either male or female, the reality in our world is not so black and white. At birth, a doctor assigns a gender to an individual based on primary sex characteristics.

Self-identified gender, however, is your choice.

Though society teaches us from a young age that our gender conforms with our sex, this is not true for everyone. People who identify as transgender often feel that their chosen gender does not coincide with the gender they were assigned at birth.

It takes bravery to make the leap of faith to outwardly express how you feel inside, knowing full well that it is still considered by many to be socially unacceptable.

While you cannot choose what physical sex characteristics you are born with, everyone has the right to choose their gender and decide how they wish to be identified.

The B.C. Human Rights Code, under “Discrimination in accommodation, service and facility,” prohibits denying access to “service or facility customarily available to the public,” including on the basis of “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

Immediately following the shooting at a gay bar in Orlando, Fla. in June 2016, a hate crime that killed 49 people and injured 53 others, Maple Ridge council raised the pride flag in recognition of those lost, and as a sign of our love, support, and acceptance of the LGBTQ community, and continued to fly it throughout Pride Week and on Canada Day.

Following this, we installed Maple Ridge’s first ever pride sidewalk. I look forward to discussing how we will renovate our existing aquatic facility and design our new facility in a way that ensures equal access and opportunity to everyone in our community.

We cannot focus on women and children alone, but the community as a whole. People who are transgender face a far greater risk of experiencing violence or being a victim of a hate crime.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan

Maple Ridge