A transgender woman has been turned away from a women’s gym in New Zealand – despite having a birth certificate showing her gender.
On May 28, Penelopy Mansell went to Revive Fitness gym in the country’s capital, Wellington, expecting to be given the tour and told why she should join.
Instead, she was refused entry to the gym, with a staff member informing her that trans women were banned unless they had undergone confirmation surgery.
Mansell, 49, has so far been unable to get surgery, as the waiting list for the government’s publicly funded operations can leave trans people kicking their heels for decades.
She pleaded with staff, even showing them her the birth certificate – which identifies her as a woman – but they would not relent.
Writing on Facebook, she said: “ONLY allowed in (for free tour) AFTER I GET THE OP!!
“I’ll just wait 60+ years then…?”
Mansell added that she “was told ‘it’s company policy that all trans people have a medical confirmed srs (sex reassignment) op before being allowed in the GYM.'”
She felt let down by the lack of impact which government forms had had on the situation, saying: “Clearly the birth deaths dept and M.I.A don’t hold any power to confirm my gender on legal documents.”
Mansell added that two years after starting her legal transition, “I’m still discriminated [against] every day.”
Speaking to NZ Herald, she said she would feel “safer” in a women-only gym.
“I don’t want to have to use the men’s facilities in a regular gym,” she added.
When she was blocked from entering Mansell said it was simply “discrimination.
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“She wouldn’t talk to me about anything else. She wouldn’t even give me the tour.”
Revive Fitness’s area manager, Cherie Cooper, apologised for the incident and acknowledged there were issues with the company’s rules.
On Facebook, she wrote: “We would firstly like to apologise for any harm our current policy has caused.
“The policy has been in place for a long time, but we acknowledge that this is no defence, and however unintentional it may have been we accept that it may be hurtful to those who are excluded by it.
“We know that this is a sensitive matter, and to that end as a business we are urgently reaching out to organisations within the Wellington GLBTI community for guidance and advice to review our policy and ensure that our gyms are a safe and comfortable environment, and an inclusive and understanding community for all women,” she added.
“We are happy to engage, listen and communicate with all interested parties, and to keep them updated on the process from here.”
Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender athlete to compete for New Zealand, made history at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April by taking part in the 90kg-plus category despite an anti-trans backlash.
She was in pole position for a gold medal – until disaster struck.
Despite leading the field with her first lift of 120kg, she went for a Games-record 132kg lift on her final attempt – but her arm buckled dramatically, and she had to withdraw.