BC trans woman denied access to women's gym, seeks 'solution' with Human Rights Tribunal

If victorious, the BC Human Rights Code could order Bodyworks to reverse its policy and compensate Klyne-Simpson 'for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.'

BC trans woman denied access to women's gym, seeks 'solution' with Human Rights Tribunal
CHEK News
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A male-to-female transgender individual from BC has garnered widespread attention after being denied access to a women-only gym section. Brigid Klyne-Simpson informed local media that her experience with Bodyworks Fitness in Parksville left her "extremely devastated."

"It was important to me to be in a place that would be, like, explicitly accepting, like, 'You are a woman, you're allowed to be here,'" said Klyne-Simpson in an interview with CHEK News.

Klyne-Simpson says she signed up for a membership with the ladies-only facility, where a trainer welcomed her to the gym.

"One of the trainers greeted me, and she was extremely kind. She could tell I was trans right away and said I would be welcome there, and explicitly said I would be safe as well, even hugged me," said Klyne-Simpson.

Klyne-Simpson signed her membership agreement on the spot and returned Friday, having a "great time" as she worked out for more than an hour. 

But days later, gym ownership permitted her to have a membership with them on the condition she sticks to mixed-gender areas. 

"On Monday, I got a call from the same trainer saying, 'Sorry, we made a mistake, you're not allowed to be here, but you're more than welcome to use the co-ed facility," recalled Klyne-Simpson.

"I just hung up because, I mean, I was extremely devastated. There's no other word for it."

CHEK News reached out to Bodyworks Fitness for comment, where owner Dale Nagra said his gym has transgender clients, but they can only use the co-ed facilities.

"We already have transgender people here and all sorts of people. We're not discriminatory at all," said Nagra. "We've got staff that's minorities, so we're not saying there are no solutions. We're looking for a solution, and we're not discriminatory people."

"So now you pick the comfort of the male who identifies as a woman … and anybody can go in there saying, 'OK, I identify as a woman, and I want to be able to go in there.' And so, do we pick the comfort of the transgender person, who may not be as comfortable with the co-ed gym, but at least that's an alternative, or do we pick the comfort of the young girls working out there that might not feel comfortable?"

Klyne-Simpson said she prefers using the women's gym for comfort and feels intimidated by "buff guys" in co-ed gyms. "So finding a lady's gym seemed exciting," she told CHEK News.

Klyne-Simpson has since reached out to the BC Human Rights Commissioner about the issue and hopes to find a solution. The tribunal encourages residents to file complaints if they are "denied services" over the issue of "gender identity or expression."

Canada is among the world's first jurisdictions to certify transgender status through a lens of "self-identification." A decade ago, Canadian citizens could not legally change their gender until post-sex-reassignment surgery.

If victorious, the BC Human Rights Code could order Bodyworks to reverse its policy and compensate Klyne-Simpson "for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect."

Regardless, the province has already sided with Klyne-Simpson. Kelli Paddon, BC's parliamentary secretary for gender equity, said this situation highlights the importance of advancing transgender rights.

"Trans people deserve to feel safe, welcome and affirmed for who they are. Trans women are women – period," said Paddon in a statement to CHEK News. "At a time when trans people are under increased attack around the world, it's up to all of us to speak out and to help break down barriers that transgender people face."

"Even if this were resolved, I wouldn't want to go back there," said Klyne-Simpson. "But it's not so much for me. It's for other people because I'm sure I'm not the only person to whom this has happened."

"While I never set out to become an accidental activist or anything, I feel like maybe I do have a certain responsibility that because this has happened to me, I need to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else."

Before 2018, British Columbians required a note from a physician or psychologist to change the gender on their birth certificates, driver's licences and other provincial documents to a non-binary "X."

Last year, the province expanded the measure to allow residents over 12 to legally change their gender by submitting a three-page Application for Change of Gender Designation.

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