Transgender fights Cleveland on locker room policy

An embarrassing question from a boy in a locker room inspired Karen Deamons to fight the city: Why was there a woman in the men’s room? Deamons decided last month she would no longer abide by Cleveland’s requirement that she change in the men’s locker room at the indoor pool at the city-run Cudell Recreation Center. A transgender who identifies as a woman _ but has not had sex-change surgery _ Deamons wants to be able to put on her bathing suit in the women’s locker room.

Deamons, 53, said she filed a complaint June 2 with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. She’s also asking the Ohio Legislature to pass a bill that would prohibit cities from discriminating because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I can’t do it anymore, Deamons said. “Every time I go through there, it’s tearing my insides out.”

The city’s stance toward Deamons is not discriminatory, Cleveland Law Director Robert Triozzi said.

“We are being as accommodating as we possibly can, given the request that’s been made, given her own personal situation, given where she’s at in life,” Triozzi said. “We’re trying to be sensitive.”

A telephone message The Associated Press left for Civil Rights Commission executive director G. Michael Payton on Sunday afternoon was not immediately returned.

Several women interviewed recently at the recreation center said they would feel uncomfortable having a transgender woman openly changing clothes in the women’s locker room.

“I just don’t want them seeing, you know,” said Holly Workman, who brought six children to the Cudell center earlier this month.

A letter that Deamons carries with her from endocrinologist Thomas Murphy said Deamons possesses the mind, personality and behavioral characteristics of the female gender. Transgender men and women should go about their lives as the gender they identify with, Murphy said.

“It’s just kind of the common sense approach,” said Kristina Wertz, legal director for the California-based Transgender Law Center. “Someone should use the restroom that corresponds with their identity and their appearance.”

Deamons lived for years as a man, marrying twice and having three children. She began hormone treatment in 2000 to become a woman.

Deamons suffered three strokes in 2003 and 2004, and doctors have prescribed water exercises to keep mobility in her left arm and leg. Deamons uses a wheelchair and relies on public transportation, and Cudell’s pool is the most convenient from her Cleveland home.

She changed in the private toilet stalls of the women’s locker room for about five months in 2006 with no problem, she said. Several women from the pool lodged complaints against her later that year, and city officials responded by asking Deamons whether she had had sex reassignment surgery. Since she hadn’t, Deamons agreed to use the men’s locker room, which has doorless bathroom stalls.

Last month, the young boy asked his question, and Deamons decided she’d had enough.

“I don’t want to keep confusing these kids,” she said. “This just can’t happen anymore. There are kids running in and out, and it’s so embarrassing.”