TLDEF Files Suit Against NYC Department of Parks and Rec on Behalf of Transgender Man Denied Use of Men's Locker Room at Public Pool

Bryan Ellicott

June 3, 2014 - TLDEF today announced that it has filed suit against the New York City Parks and Recreation Department on behalf of a 24-year-old transgender man who was targeted for discrimination last summer at a public pool in Staten Island.

On July 21, 2013, Bryan Ellicott went to the Joseph H. Lyons Pool in Staten Island. While in the men’s locker room, he was confronted by a pool staff member and told he had to leave the men’s locker room. He was told to use the women’s locker room or to leave. When he asked to speak to a supervisor, two additional staff members repeated that he must use the women’s locker room or leave. Bryan left the pool feeling disgraced and humiliated.

Bryan’s lawsuit asks a New York court to rule for the first time that denying transgender people use of the restroom or locker room that matches their sex constitutes discrimination in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

“Like hundreds of other New Yorkers that day, I was just trying get some relief from the sweltering heat and enjoy an afternoon at the pool,” Bryan said. “Instead, I was singled out by pool staff because I am transgender. They harassed and humiliated me. No one deserves to be treated that way, but it’s an all-too-common experience for transgender people like me when we use restrooms and locker rooms.”

“What happened to Bryan happens to many transgender people when they use restrooms and locker rooms,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “Incidents like this one severely restrict the ability of transgender people to fully participate in society. Being able to use a restroom without harassment and discrimination is essential to being able to do things like work or use public places. This lawsuit sends a strong message: everyone should have equal access to public facilities. Transgender people cannot be treated as less than full citizens and be denied the use of restrooms and locker rooms just because of who they are.”

Bryan is a lifelong New Yorker. He was born and raised in Staten Island and lives in Manhattan. He has deep roots and ties to the community, and is active in its public affairs. He works for the Office of Emergency Management of the City of New York. His father was a first responder on 9/11 who has since passed away.

Since this incident, Bryan has not used public pools in New York City because he is afraid that he will suffer additional harassment and discrimination. The experience has also increased Bryan’s fear of using public restrooms, causing him to avoid them. This has often resulted in Bryan waiting long periods of time without using a restroom when in public, and has caused him ongoing medical problems.

TLDEF is co-counsel for Bryan with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. We are grateful for their assistance.

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