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Women-only pool told gender shouldn’t be determined by ‘what’s in your pants’ after ban on trans women

Vic Parsons January 18, 2021
McIver's Ladies Baths: Hundreds protest women's pool 'transphobic policy'

People swim in the ocean at Manly Beach, Sydney. (Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

Hundreds of queers went to a protest and 12,000 have more signed a petition against a new trans-exclusionary policy at the McIver’s Ladies Baths in Sydney, Australia.

A “swim-in for trans inclusion” at the women-only coastal swimming pool in Coogee, Sydney, on 17 January saw trans and cis swimmers defy a transphobic policy the pool released last week and celebrate transgender pride and solidarity.

Protestors held signs reading “Stop drinking JK’s pool-aid!” and “Let them swim”.

The protest, which saw hundreds of LGBT+ people demanding that the organisation apologise and include trans women, comes after the women-only pool was heavily criticised for introducing a new policy banning some trans women from the pool. The new policy was then retracted, and the McIver’s Ladies Baths has now deleted its Facebook page and website.

Janet Anderson, who started the viral #LetThemSwim hashtag on social media in response to McIver’s exclusion of trans women, said in a statement before the protest: “It’s time for women’s spaces to start advocating for ALL women. No woman left behind.”

Mardi Gras board director and co-organiser Charlie Murphy added: “We have seen a massive outpouring of community support for transgender people. The council has received thousands of comments, and more than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for the pool to adopt an openly trans-inclusive policy.

“Gender should not be determined by what’s in your pants.”

According to a National Trust report on the baths, they have been used as a spot for bathing for women since before 1876.

The baths themselves were built in 1886 and the lease expired in 1901. The McIver family ran the baths until 1922 when the Randwick Ladies Amateur Swimming Club was formed. The club took over the lease and has held it since that time.

At Sunday’s protest, trans activist Janet Anderson gave a speech emphasising that “trans folk have been silenced for too long” by the cultural mainstream, and pointed out that the majority of the public support trans inclusion. “What will it take for organisations like this to understand that this is what the public wants?” she asked.

Anderson also said that the McIver’s Ladies Baths latest website update on the policy was “ambiguous” and “leaves [the] door open to discrimination”.

She concluded that “this is not about keeping women safe, this is about policing women’s bodies… we must ensure that all women are welcome to use the baths… [not just those] who fit [an inappropriate, narrowly defined] idea of womanhood”.

The deputy mayor of Coogee reportedly supported the petition and protest, which dispersed into those taking part in the “swim-in” at the baths and others heading to the beach.

McIver’s Ladies Baths face criticism for ‘offensive’ and ‘transphobic’ policy

The McIver’s Ladies Baths in the Sydney suburb of Coogee have been heavily criticised over the past week for attempting to ban some trans women from the women-only swimming baths.

The criticism began with thousands of people commenting on a Facebook post on the McIver’s Ladies Baths page that introduced a new “breathtakingly offensive” rule mandating that only trans women “who’ve undergone a gender reassignment surgery” could swim in the pool.

As the negative responses to the “disappointingly transphobic” new policy continued, a second update to the McIver’s Ladies Baths website said that: “Only women and children (boys up to 13 years of age) are permitted entry.”

With calls – backed by the local council – growing for the organisation to make a clear statement in support of trans inclusion, the McIver’s Ladies Baths made a third update to its website on 13 January stating that the organisation would comply with New South Wales’ (NSW) anti-discrimination laws. “Yes. Transgender women are welcome to the McIver’s Ladies Baths, our definition for transgender is as per the NSW Discrimination Act,” it read.

Both the McIver’s Ladies Baths website and Facebook page have now been deleted.

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling on the organisation to issue a full apology, make clear that all women are welcome at the baths, and to reinstate and update its website to reflect that the women-only baths are trans-inclusive regardless of what gender-affirming surgery a trans woman has had.

“If there are single-sex spaces, it should be the individual’s right to choose that which best matches their identity,” the petition says.

“‘What if?’ situations are often raised but there is no evidence they ever happen. Exclusion of trans people, however, is well-documented and degrading.”

More: McIver's Ladies Baths, terf, trans inclusion, trans women, trans women in sport

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