Citing state nondiscrimination law, officials at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington are standing by their decision to let a 45-year-old student with a penis use the women’s locker room, and walk naked in front of girls as young as six.
Evergreen, a public, ultra-progressive redoubt of the liberal arts, boasts a recreation center with an 11-lane Olympic swimming pool (among many other swell amenities). Olympia-area students from grade school to high school use the facility and share the locker rooms, Fox News reports.
The trouble started in September when a 17-year-old girl saw Colleen Francis au naturel inside the women’s locker room, reports KOMO-TV, Seattle’s ABC affiliate. Francis, a male since birth, has identified as a woman since 2009.
Not long after the episode, the girl’s mother filed a police report.
A coach from a different youth team, Tiffany Wright, also filed a police report, according to the Daily Mail, after observing Francis “sitting with her legs open with her male genitalia showing” in the women’s sauna, then telling Francis to leave.
Wright later apologized to Francis upon learning of the transgender issue, the Mail notes, but not before explaining that “there were girls six to 18 years of age and they were not used to seeing individuals in situations like this.”
The Evergreen administration has been open to compromise but only to a limited degree. It asserts that state law mandates equal access to state facilities — including women’s locker rooms where minors proliferate — regardless of sexual orientation.
“The college cannot discriminate based on the basis of gender identity,” Evergreen spokesman Jason Wettstein told KOMO. “Gender identity is one of the protected things in discrimination law in this state.”
“We have a long-term policy of working to balance the needs of a lot of folks, and try to create opportunities for everyone to use the facility that’s most appropriate to them,” Wettstein added, according to the Seattle Weekly
In response to the hubbub over Francis’s genitalia, the school has since erected screens to create a sub-section within the locker room where women and girls who feel uncomfortable can dress more privately.
For her part (technically his part), Francis insists on the right to use the women’s changing room at the swimming pool because she has lived as a woman since 2009. In Francis’s view, the complaints by parents are intolerable discrimination.
“This is not 1959 Alabama,” Francis pronounced to KIRO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Seattle. “We don’t call the police for drinking from the wrong water fountain.”
According to Fox News, the local district attorney is unlikely to press charges because “criminal law is very vague in this area.”
A group of angry parents contacted the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative legal organization, for help.
“Little girls should not be exposed to naked men, period,” said David Hacker, ADF’s senior legal counsel, according to Fox News.
Hacker also suggested that a civil court could find Evergreen liable for money damages.
“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’s letter to Evergreen reads, according to the Seattle Weekly. “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.”