Last summer, I joined a gym. After a year of sitting around, saying “I really need some exercise” and my health becoming worse and worse, a new gym opened a mere 2km from my house, just a small detour from my commute and I seized the opportunity. To be honest, I was quite anxious getting my fat old body into gym clothing and going there, but it turns out that there’s every kind of people going there, only that the ordinary folks just go there while only the obnoxious health nuts are loud about it, giving off the false impression that gyms are populated by super fit and super annoying lean young people. The worst thing that happened so far is that it really helps and I am not happy with having to go there twice a week for the next 30-40 years (it’s just that the alternative is worse. Seriously, I already had a referral for cortisol injections directly into the spine when I found the right exercises…). Anyway, that’ not the point of this post, just some passive aggressive bragging.
That gym has a small “wellness” area with a small sauna. I love going to the sauna and on Tuesday nights, after some hard “reha sports” (a class especially for increasing mobility, decreasing health problems), I go there to relax. That whole area is a nudist area (yes, that’s standard in Germany) as well as mixed sex (yes, also normal). Of course, the men outnumber us women there, because a lot of women are indeed uncomfortable being alone in the vicinity of naked men. I…don’t give a fuck, literally. As I mentioned, I love going to the sauna and access to it comes with paying the membership fee, not having a dick. I usually put on my earphones and listen to music, and so far nothing has happened. Yes, occasionally somebody is annoying, mostly by talking loudly. I once chitchatted with some guy, both commiserating how much neither of us likes going to the gym. Just like nobody has given me shit for being fat, old and at the gym, no dude has given me shit for being naked in the sauna. Yes, I know, fat and old, but for one I used to be young and thin and also, fat and old often leads to a whole different kind of sexual harassment. None of this has happened. Because the men who go there understand the rules and culture of the place. It’s for sweating until it smells of crispy bacon, not picking up a date. The existence of a penis, even a nekkid one, does not make a space inherently unsafe for women. But you know what does: Giving predatory cis men the excuse that they cannot control themselves because all men are sexually aggressive all the time.
Oh, the amount of locker room scaremongering I’ve witnessed in recent weeks on Finnish Twitter, as the parliament has been processing a sorely needed gender recognition reform (it officially passed a few days ago). That is, while also following English Twitter at the same time. Over there, it’s always transphobia o’clock.
After much confusion, I eventually found confirmation that formal gender recognition isn’t even relevant for access to many gender-segregated spaces (in Finland, but probably also most other similar countries). It can be relevant in institutions like prisons, where checking your ID is a routine part of the process anyway. For places like public toilets and gyms, people are supposed to taken by their word, though supposedly one’s stated gender could be challenged if it can be argued to be blatantly inauthentic (again, based on evidence other than ID).