Leading UK gym chain David Lloyd does not permit trans people to use changing rooms in line with the gender they identify with, unless they can produce a gender recognition certificate.
In a HuffPost UK analysis of several national gym chains and their policies on changing rooms – including Nuffield Health, PureGym, Everyone Active, EasyGym, The Gym Group and Virgin Active – David Lloyd was the only one to require this documentation from a trans person wishing to use the changing room for their identified gender.
“Our policy is that unless the member holds a Gender Recognition Certificate, transgender members must use the facilities designated for their birth gender,” a David Lloyd spokesperson said. They added that enquiries for gender neutral facilities at their clubs had been small.
David Lloyd has 99 gyms in the UK and more than 500,000 members.
By contrast, Virgin Active and EasyGym said they “welcomed” members to use changing rooms of the gender they identify with. “All members may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity,” an EasyGym spokesperson said.
Last year Duncan Bannatyne, founder of the Bannatyne gym group, was outspoken in his opposition to people using the changing room for the gender they identified with.. A spokesperson for Bannatyne gyms declined to comment on whether this was consistent with the chain’s policy and refused to share details of their policy.
LGBT activists say they find the stance alarming and questioned whether requiring a trans person to present a certificate in order to use a changing room is a breach of their rights.
“Due to fear of discrimination and harassment, trans people are already less likely to engage in activities that take place in public, such as going to the gym,” Jamie Pallas of Gendered Intelligence, an advocacy group for trans rights, told HuffPost UK.
“Discrimination against trans people as customers and service users is unlawful, whether or not they have a GRC,” he continued. “Everyone wants to feel comfortable and welcome when going to the gym – requesting a GRC seriously compromises a person’s right to privacy.”
Trans people do not always choose to legally change their gender, the application for which costs £140. According to the government’s guidelines on obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC), “there may be emotional and financial disadvantages of obtaining legal recognition in your acquired gender”.
To qualify for a GRC, applicants over the age of 18 who are usually resident in England, Scotland or Wales must meet certain criteria. These include having received a gender dysphoria diagnosis, having lived in an acquired gender for at least two years, and intending to live in an acquired gender until death.
The Equality Act 2010, which includes protections against discrimination for trans people, does not require a person to have undergone treatment or surgery to change from their birth sex to their identified gender.
Where gyms had less clearly defined policies, they aimed to address changing room use on a case-by-case basis.
“We respect all our customers and will carefully review specific needs at a site level,” a spokesperson for Nuffield Health, which has 111 gyms across the UK, said. “We fully comply with all applicable laws – including as to protected characteristics - to ensure all customers are looked after.”
Last year BuzzFeed News reported that a trans woman was asked to leave a women’s changing room at a branch of PureGym, which did not have a policy on trans members at the time, after another member complained.
PureGym has since issued an “everyone welcome” policy, which although still works on a case-by-case basis, includes more detailed guidance on inclusivity to trans people and is compliant with legal guidelines.
“We passionately believe that everyone should have access to high quality, affordable fitness facilities,” a PureGym spokesperson said. “This includes transgender members who enjoy their experience like any other member but whom we recognise may face unique challenges with respect to using the changing rooms.”
CORRECTION: This article originally described Gendered Intelligence as a charity. It is in fact an advocacy group for trans rights.