EL CAJON, Calif. — A transgender woman has reached a settlement with an El Cajon gym to resolve allegations that she was not allowed to use the women's locker room and restroom in violation of state law, it was announced Wednesday. But despite the lawsuit, the woman still credits the gym for helping her on her weight loss journey and continues to be a client.
If you ask Christynne Wood about Crunch Fitness, you would likely hear a glowing review.
"I desperately love my instructors and fellow students. They are my sisters," she told News 8.
Wood credits the gym's aquatic center with helping her lose over 140 pounds over the last decade. But Wednesday she celebrated winning her legal battle with the Crunch Fitness location. She partnered with the ACLU to sue the gym after she said they discriminated against her because she is transgender.
After nine years with the gym, Wood notified them that she was transitioning and would need access to the women's facilities. When she presented management with proof of her legal name and gender change, things didn't go as planned.
"I brought my paperwork out to show them and was immediately told 'no, no, no, not so fast,'" said Wood.
It took over seven months and two verbal assaults in the men's room at the gym before Wood was finally granted access to the female locker rooms and restrooms.
It's something she should have never been denied according to California law.
California's Unruh Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. It mandates that trans people have access to the restroom and locker room that align with their gender identity.
Unfortunately, this story is all too common in the trans community. A study out of UCLA found nearly 70% of transgender people have experienced discrimination when trying to use public restrooms.
Wood will receive a payment of an undisclosed sum and the gym has agreed that all its employees will undergo anti-discrimination training, including the identification and prevention of harassment based on gender expression.
"I feel elated and validated to finally reach resolution in this case," Wood said. "I hope the settlement helps the owners of Crunch and other gyms appreciate the importance of respecting transgender people's identities. It's not only our legal right, but also could save a life."
Since the events described in the lawsuit, the ownership and management of the gym have changed and Wood remains a member and user of the gym.
"Why would I leave something that was such a positive thing in my life? Mistakes were made but they got corrected," said Wood.
DFEH Director Kevin Kish said the agency "brought suit in this case under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act to vindicate the essential right of transgender Californians to live their lives free from discrimination. Today's settlement ensures that no Californian will face the discrimination Ms. Wood experienced in the future at this establishment."
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