SANTEE, Calif. — It's a story that's making international headlines, after a 17-year-old girl said that she was "terrified" after seeing a transgender woman using the women's locker room at a Santee YMCA as the teen was getting out of the shower.
Hundreds of protestors demanding the YMCA change its policy, as well as dozens of counter-protesters in support of transgender rights, staged dueling demonstrations Wednesday night.
Management at the Cameron Family YMCA in Santee made the decision to close five hours early for safety reasons when they learned of those planned competing protests.
"Not everything that is legal is moral," said Santee City Councilmember Phil Ortiz.
"We're going to create a new generation of fighters powered by love and not hate," countered a supporter for LGBTQ+ rights.
Fiery protesters on both sides of this cultures war debate came out Wednesday night, in response to what 17-year-old Rebecca Philips shared one week earlier at the Santee city council meeting after she went swimming at this YMCA last month.
"As I was showering after my workout, I saw a naked male in the women's locker room," she said. "I immediately went back into the shower terrified and hid behind heir flimsy excuse for a curtain until he was gone."
Philips said that YMCA management later told her that that person was transgender and allowed to use the women's locker room, and that Philips was not in any danger.
Under state law, people must be allowed to use public facilities, such as restrooms or changing areas, that align with their gender identity.
"The fact that we are now tailoring our privacy policies and bathroom laws around transgenders, ignoring the blatant threat to safety that this poses is obscene," Philips added
Hundreds came out in support of Philips Wednesday night.
"If it happened to my granddaughter, I would be upset for sure," said Santee resident Paula Dwyer.
"Children and women have rights to privacy," added Santee resident Sheri Miles. "We shouldn't be invaded when we are in the bathroom or the locker room or God help us, the shower. It's wrong!"
Counter demonstrators standing up for transgender rights staged what they called a "dance party" in support of the transgender woman at the center of this controversy.
"With anti-LGBTQ attacks on the rise both legislatively, physically and verbally, it is more important than ever for people to educate themselves and to come out and show their support for their LGBTQ neighbors and family members," said Justine Mann of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
"I'm here to make sure that my child feels loved. and that any child out there doesn't feel hated or demonized," added mother and teacher Gretel Rodriguez.
In a statement, the YMCA of San Diego County emphasized its commitment to inclusion while also apologizing to Philips for not providing enough support to her, adding that it is now reviewing its locker room floor plans across all of its facilities.
Here is the entire statement issued by the YMCA of San Diego County:
January 18, 2023
YMCA OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Statement from CEO Todd Tibbits:
The YMCA of San Diego County is a cornerstone of our community, positively impacting the lives of thousands of youths, adults, seniors, and families that rely on us daily. We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and want to ensure everyone feels both welcome and safe at our Y.
We understand that the minor involved felt hurt and frustrated, and we wholeheartedly apologize for not providing her with the level of support she deserves. We take great care in fostering a safe, respectful, and supportive atmosphere so everyone can feel comfortable. We are committed to treating every member with dignity and protection and will continue striving towards that goal.
We have a stellar reputation and proven record of protecting and safeguarding children throughout our 150+ years of history. In fact, every YMCA member and employee goes through the National Sex Offender Registry daily, and each location and program operates above and beyond California and national Child Protection laws.
At the YMCA of San Diego County we welcome and value individuals of all ages, races, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, gender expression, abilities, sexual orientation, or financial circumstances. Our YMCA operates in accordance with California law which gives people the right to access the locker rooms, changing rooms, and bathrooms that align with their gender identity. In addition, we rely on subject matter experts, laws, and guidelines established by the State of California to ensure our policies are welcoming and respectful for all community members.
We also provide a private, gender-neutral restroom/shower for members who prefer a private space. As part of our commitment to continuously improve, we are reviewing locker room floorplans across all facilities within our association. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to additional privacy if desired and needed.
WATCH RELATED: San Diego leaders declaring city safe for LGBTQ+ community (Dec. 2022).
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