Visiting gyms and spas can be an essential part of maintaining physical and mental health. The California ACLU affiliates are working to ensure that gyms and spas are inclusive and respectful of everyone’s gender identity.
Can a gym or spa deny me service, or exclude me from gender-segregated spaces, because I’m transgender and/or nonbinary?
No. Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil Code § 51), business establishments in California may not deny anyone “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services” because of their sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression (as well as other traits like race, national origin, religion, and disability). This means people who are transgender or nonbinary have the right to full and equal participation in a gym or spa experience, including access to locker rooms and other spaces based on their gender identity.
Do I have the right to use the restroom and locker room that match my gender identity?
Yes. You have the right to use the gender-segregated facilities (including restrooms, locker rooms, etc.) that correspond to your gender identity, regardless of your assigned sex at birth. A gym or spa cannot force you to use facilities that do not correspond with your gender identity, or deny you access to facilities that do correspond with your gender identity.
Can a gym or spa ask me about my gender?
If there are gender-segregated facilities, the staff may ask about your gender. For example, they may ask for your gender to assign you space in the appropriate locker room. If asked, you can tell them your gender identity.
Can a gym or spa require documentation or “proof” of my gender?
No. Businesses cannot require a driver's license, birth certificate, court order, medical record, or other identification to access gender-segregated facilities or amenities.
I am nonbinary, and go to a gym or spa that segregates facilities by gender. Can the business choose which facilities I us?
A gym, spa, or other similar business can legally divide its locker rooms or other facilities into “men’s” and “women’s”. However, if your gender identity is nonbinary, you can use the facility in which you feel most comfortable – the business doesn’t get to choose.
If the gym or spa has a gendered dress code, do I have the right to wear clothing that is consistent with my gender identity?
Yes. If a gym or spa has a gender-specific dress code, it is your right to follow the part that is most consistent with your gender identity. The business cannot dictate which dress code you follow. Businesses can better accommodate everyone by doing away with gender-specific dress codes.
I am being harassed at a gym or spa because of my gender identity. Is this legal?
No. Businesses have a legal responsibility to prevent and address harassment by staff and other customers. Harassment can be verbal, written, or physical. Some examples of harassment could include threats, physical touch or violence, unwanted sexual conduct, filming someone without their consent, and consistent and intentional misgendering.
I own a gym/spa. How can I make sure it is legally compliant and welcoming to people of all genders?
- Make sure your business has clear policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment against transgender and nonbinary people, and specifically allowing all customers and employees to use the facilities that align with their gender identity.
- Train your staff on proper implementation of those policies, including how to handle and de-escalate any conflict that may arise.
- Train your staff not to make gendered assumptions (e.g., addressing an exercise class as “ladies” or a prospective member who walks in for the first time as “sir”).
- Set up your enrollment forms and computer system so customers can specify the name and pronouns they go by, and make sure staff consistently use them.
- If your establishment has a dress code, make sure it is gender-neutral, or remove the dress code entirely.
- Provide comprehensive gender diversity and inclusion trainings to your employees, preferably with trans and non-binary trainers who can share their own experiences.
I believe my rights are being violated. What can I do?
If you believe your rights have been violated by a gym, a spa, or another business establishment, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You can contact the DFEH at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 884-1684 if you have questions.
If you would like more help understanding your rights (or responsibilities), please contact your local ACLU affiliate:
ACLU of Northern California: (415) 621-2488
ACLU of Southern California: email@example.com; (213) 201-8918
ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties: firstname.lastname@example.org