The latest right wing news firestorm is now centered on Port Townsend. Recently, an “80 year old grandma” named Julie Jaman was banned for life from the Mountain View swimming pool because she was outraged that a trans person was in the locker room with young children. But the story is way more complex than it sounds at first glance. Of course it involved right wing “outrage” and hate blog sharks swimming in to capitalize and spread fear.
The trans person was a staff member who was apparently escorting the kids through the locker room/shower. Jaman read evil intention into this benign situation. Her reported comment to the staff member, asking if they “have a penis” was itself inappropriate under any circumstance. If Jaman had an issue she might have simply dealt with the management of the pool, rather than blow up at the staffer and take the issue to the police. Instead, according to Y staff, she blew up at the staff and management, shouting invectives that are not worth repeating here in print. The police did write down her accusations but took no real action other than talking to the pool management.
The issue then was escalated by the right wing “PT Free Press” a news blog that has in the past called out the local non-profit public radio station KPTZ as being “biased” for simply running “Democracy Now”, and receiving a $10,000 grant from the County Council to help staff a news person to report on county activities. No mention by this right wing blogger of all the variety of public interest information that the station contributes to the community, only that in his mind, this grant was somehow illegal and indicative of coercion by the elected officials . The station routinely instructs to keep all personal opinions off the air or expect to have counter points of view on as well.
Dori Munson, the right wing radio talk show host in Seattle went on air to vent his outrage, but failed to mention that Jaman had verbally abused the person and the staff, which led to her being banned forever from the pool. It was not because she had an issue with the trans staffer. Nor did he mention her history of being verbally abusive with the pool staff which was mentioned in the PT Free Press.
Laura Ingram, a right wing tv personality also picked the story up with suitable outrage.
Angry citizens also vented their rage at the Port Townsend City Council for their not “doing something” about this. It appears non of these people have read state law for employers. Twitter went alight with outraged tweets from all over the world.
Wendy Bart, the CEO of the Y reminded people that the Y is by state law, required to provide a safe and inclusive environment.
Our Code of Conduct policy states: “At the Y, we strive to provide an atmosphere free from: discrimination, hatred, derogatory or unwelcome comments, intimidation, conduct or actions of sexual nature, or actions based on an individual’s sex, age, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other legal protected status.” Anyone violating this Code of Conduct may have their membership revoked.
The safety and well-being of children in our care always has been and always will be a top priority. We are committed to providing a safe environment for every person in our programs, most importantly children who are entrusted to our care. We have a series of measures in place to keep kids safe including background checks for staff; training for child abuse prevention, recognition and response; and ensuring that staff are not alone with a child at any point in time.
As a community-based nonprofit organization, we are committed to reflecting the diverse communities we serve, and to providing a safe, inclusive environment for all. Since 2016, when WAC 162-32-060 went into effect, we have operated in accordance with the law which gives people the right to access the locker rooms, changing rooms, and bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
I want to thank you for your support as these policies keep all Y members safe, and so that we can be an organization that is welcoming and inclusive for all.
Please contact me should you have any questions or concerns.
Chief Executive Officer
The Free Press went on to publish the name of the employee, which of course led hate groups on the Internet to come to the attack, threatening the staffer.
Finally, after two weeks of silence on the issue, the local weekly newspaper and the Port Angeles Daily newspaper both published very fair and balanced reporting on the issue. Unfortunately, too late to help quash the right wing quacks on Twitter. It appears that the search of the ex-President’s compound has moved this off the main radar of right wing outrage. We are all still holding our breath that no nut job is going to attempt to harm the Y or any of it’s staff. Given the situation in Cincinnati last week, anything might happen and we hope that our tiny police force is taking these threats seriously.
There is no doubt that if Ms. Jaman wants to be outraged at seeing a trans person in the locker room, she will be. However, there were many ways that she could have handled this without creating a major incident and then claiming she was the injured party. I ran into a local Democratic politician at the county fair over the weekend and when I mentioned Ms Jaman, the response was a heavy rolling of the eyes. Ms. Jaman is well known by those of us who attend Democratic meetings. Yes, she has attended them over the years. The assumption has been she has been a Democrat, as she claims. Whether she will be welcome back to those meetings remains to be seen.
It is worth noting that in Germany, (and likely other first world European countries) public swimming pools have uni-sex changing rooms and showers.
Port Townsend has always had a reputation of being inclusive to a wide range of people’s points of view. Our town motto has been enshrined on bumper stickers for decades. “We are all here because we are not all there.” Ms. Jaman and her supporters have suitably demonstrated that.