More than 200 people crowded Pope Marine Park and both sides of Water Street in downtown Port Townsend Monday evening in response to the continuing controversy over a transgender YMCA employee at …
More than 200 people crowded Pope Marine Park and both sides of Water Street in downtown Port Townsend Monday evening in response to the continuing controversy over a transgender YMCA employee at Mountain View Pool.
Port Townsend resident Julie Jaman has been at the center of national media interest since she confronted the YMCA staffer and was subsequently banned from the pool.
Her cause has since been championed by conservative media outlets and others who have been upset about the YMCA allowing the staff member to continue working at the Mountain View Pool.
A press conference called by Jaman’s supporters Monday across from Port Townsend City Hall was quickly overwhelmed by people supporting the YMCA employee and the transgender community.
While the standoff remained mostly civil throughout, tensions slowly rose as the pro-trans crowd surrounded the speakers and distracted from the speeches with chants, loud musical instruments, and a brigade of bikes adorned with Pride flags.
Chants of “Trans women are women” from the massive crowd were met with “We want sex-based rights” from the Jaman supporters.
Tensions between the two sides continued to rise after Jaman gave a speech in front of the crowd. Demonstrators locked arms in a semi-circle as the pro-trans crowd grew louder and closer.
As least one demonstrator was detained by officers from the Port Townsend Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, who had around 10 members of law enforcement monitoring the situation, and had blocked off a section of Water Street.
Eventually after an hour of speeches, chants, and arguments, anti-trans activist Amy Sousa, Jaman, and their supporters retreated from the park while being escorted by police.
Counter-protesters celebrated with tunes of “Y.M.C.A” by the Village People and “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga.
The protests and discussions on transgender individuals in public restrooms stemmed from Jaman’s encounter with a trans YMCA employee in late July.
Jaman was banned from the pool for asking the transgender woman if she had a penis, then started yelling at her while in a pool locker room, according to reports from Port Townsend police and the Olympic Peninsula YMCA.
Since that incident, stories have circulated on conservative media sites including Fox News, the New York Post, and Breitbart, with the outlets misrepresenting the trans community and painting the employee as a “groomer” or “predator.”
After the Olympic Peninsula YMCA received threatening messages and became worried about the safety of employees, the organization closed Mountain View Pool last week.
Both the city of Port Townsend and Jefferson County have since passed transgender proclamations to reiterate their support of the trans community.
The proclamations, adopted Monday, noted increased violence directed toward LGBTQ+ individuals in recent years.
County Commissioner Kate Dean led the county’s effort to show its support.
“The fact is the YMCA is following state law in allowing people to use the facilities that they most identify with, and we support that,” she said during the commissioners’ meeting Monday.
“I am very saddened that trans people in our community are being threatened and treated poorly, as well as the staff at the YMCA,” Dean added. “It’s important that we express our support to the trans community and to the YMCA.”
According to police records obtained via a public records request, pool staff reported getting multiple threatening messages, with one tweet about “shooting workers” and a voicemail stating, “I’m coming for you.”
The Port Townsend Police Department has also logged a large number of negative messages, with most coming from out of state.
According to a police report, the department has received around 50 messages over the past week.
Mountain View Pool was also closed Monday and Tuesday, according to YMCA staff.
Both sides continued to press their views following the press conference, with the public comment portion of Monday’s city council meeting being consumed by the pool controversy.
The majority of commenters in attendance were in favor of the YMCA employee.
“Seeing the backlash and harm that Julie Jaman has put our community in, specifically the trans employee, is absolutely unacceptable,” said local resident Moe Wolf. “I’ve spoken to the trans person and it’s clear that they had a very traumatic experience with Julie … Julie was threatening other employees at the YMCA and this has happened multiple times.”
Though Jaman has denied having any prior conflicts with pool staff, YMCA officials have said that she has repeatedly violated the Y’s code of conduct in the past.
“I am writing in support of the city and the Y on the matter of equality of all people! We all deserve the rights and respect that should belong to everyone,” said Jan Ellis via written comment. “We should not be subjected to the intimidation tactics of a small noisy group of sad, misguided, fearful people who think their opinions (not facts) are more valid than the majority of fact based laws and human understanding! I am glad I live in an area that stands up for all citizens.”