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Task force: locker room policy should change

A new locker room code aimed at accommodating transgendered members of the Portland State community is being debated by the newly configured Sexual Diversity Task Force.

The code, as it presently exists, is considered an interim solution to the lack of formal policy on transgendered people and transsexuals in the locker rooms at the Peter Stott Center. Representatives of the sexual minority community have strong feelings that certain aspects of it need to change.

There is also some confusion as to whether the policy is currently in effect. Carol Burnell, chair of the Sexual Diversity Task Force, believes it is. Burt Christopherson, PSU Affirmative Action director, agrees. Keith Mettie, building manager for Peter Stott Center, said he is still awaiting approval of the policy from Christopherson. Christopherson says he has e-mailed approval to Mettie.

The interim “Locker Room Gender Policy” is similar to the policy officially followed by the City of Portland. It outlines procedures for protecting personal privacy. The text is as follows:

1. Because the locker rooms in the Peter Stott Center are gender sensitive areas, persons of the opposite sex, no matter their age, are not allowed.

2. All users in both locker rooms are required to produce current PSU ID upon request by Peter Stott Center staff. Anyone without PSU ID may be asked to leave the locker rooms.

3. If, upon presenting PSU ID, the gender status of a patron is uncertain, you [Stott Center staff member] may ask them to produce documentation of their gender, which can include but is not limited to, a court order, letter from a physician, birth certificate, passport or driver’s license.

4. If they are unable to provide gender documentation you may ask them to leave the locker room.

Burnell said the Sexual Diversity Task Force particularly seeks revisions to article three of the interim code. The group would like to see some clearly defined parameters for enforcement of the code by the Stott Center staff.

“It seems discriminatory,” Burnell said. “Should everyone have to show ID? Or will the staff only be asking some people to show ID?” Her task force wants assurances that the transgendered and transsexuals have safe and appropriate places to change in the locker rooms.

“We want to make sure other individuals don’t feel sexually harassed,” she declared. “But a “peeping Tom” is totally different from someone who is part of the PSU community.”

John Fowler, director of the Campus Public Safety Office, has participated in meetings on the issue. He made it plain to the Vanguard that it is up to the Stott Center staff to enforce the policy, not his office. “Enforcement starts with the gym staff. It is up to them to decide who has the right to be in the locker rooms”

His officers become involved only if summoned by the gym staff. A person who is not a staff member calling Campus Public Safety Office and complaining about a person in the locker room would not bring a CPSO response.

“If a person is asked to leave and didn’t comply, we would move to intervention,” Fowler summarized.

Mettie said the Stott Center staff recently received a training session focused on building general awareness of gender issues.

The Sexual Diversity Task Force is a new organization, having had only two meetings to date. Burnell said it was formed to try to bring together a number of different elements on the campus concerned with sexual diversity. It currently lists 16 members, including ASPSU Vice President Emily Garrick and Lyndsay Karmol of Queers & Allies, as well as representatives of PSU Affirmative Action, Campus Ministry, the Mentor Program and the faculty caucus on sexual minorities.

According to Burnell, the Task Force was sparked by an incident in the women’s locker room of the Stott Center. Affirmative Action had called an ad-hoc meeting to discuss a potential policy, but now, the entire matter has migrated to the Sexual Diversity Task Force. The group is so new, however, it does not yet have a constitution or by-laws and is still seeking more student members and input. At present there is no plan for public hearings on locker room policy, but a hearing be considered in the future.

In the meantime, Burnell remains firm that the interim policy will not do as a long-term policy.

“We want it a bit more sensitive,” she said. “We want to get something on paper that is more fair. We’re not close enough yet.”