File under Hoaxes, poorly executed

Update: Autumn from Pam’s House Blend would like an apology from all involved in this pitiful stunt. I’m not holding my breath, either.

Well, it seems that the story of “the man wearing a blue ruffled skirt” in the ladies’ locker room has badly unraveled. That didn’t take long.

According to two reports on the Teach the Facts blog, here is what folks have discovered:

It turns out that a woman named Theresa Rickman, spokesperson for the group “Citizens for a Responsible Government” (which has previously gone by at least two other names as the group adjusted its mission, so they are now known as CRWhatever) was actually in the lobby of the health club when the stunt happened. One of the many suspicious things about this incident from the beginning was that CRW had apparently called Channel 7, and was being interviewed within an hour of the initial complaint. A manager at the health club confirmed the presence of “an activist” who she assumed to be associated with a group that sure sounds like CRW (“the people at the grocery store with petitions”). It’s not stated why the manager recognized her as such – has she encountered Rickman at the grocery store? Was Rickman distributing propaganda in the lobby? – but she did.

According to this manager, the person in a dress signed in with a crowd of other guests so it is not clear who it was or if it was a man or a woman; they then proceeded directly to the ladies locker room, went into it and to the back of the room, and then came out and left the building. When this person came in, the employee at the door thought something strange was going on and called for an attendant to go check the ladies room, but the person left before they got there. Rio staff say they do not know who the person was.

The manager at Rio said she did not know who called the media, but she said the activist in the lobby was filmed in an interview after the event. The only “activist” interviewed by Channel 7 (the only media outlet indiscriminate enough to send a reporter to the scene) was Theresa Rickman of the CRW, who has written in our comments section that she goes to the Bethesda Sport and Health gym, not the one in Rio — so why would she have been there? In its newscast, Channel 7 failed to mention Ms. Rickman’s connection to the anti-gay, anti-transgender group, quoting her as if she were an ordinary citizen on the scene.

So, let’s see: The spokesperson for the group claiming that the new law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people will permit “men” to use the ladies’ room was present in the lobby of the health club – not her own health club – at the very time that this unidentified “man in a skirt” person signed in, quickly paraded through the ladies’ locker room, and then promptly disappeared. How interesting.

Also interesting: The woman in the locker room who reported this suspicious person to management was identified as Mary Ann Ondray – which seems to be a hasty phonetic spelling of her actual name, Andree. In one of the Anti-Gay Industry propaganda mills that was fed this story by CRW, they spell her name Andree. What would prompt them to change the spelling? There is no indication that they contacted her; the content of their story is basically a cut-and-paste from the Channel 7 story, with the addition of some commentary by another CRW spokesperson, Michelle Turner. It appears that Turner may have corrected the spelling of Andree’s name. But why would Turner have that information? Is Andree one of the 3000 or so names on CRW’s petition? We may yet find out.

That’s another thing that was revealed: CRW has only been able to convince 3000 gullible people to sign the thing, even by using outrageous misrepresentation. They are organizing petition drives in fundamentalist churches, standing outside grocery stores, and even bothering people with robocalls. They are still nowhere near the 12,500 signatures they must have by early February in order to continue their ugly campaign.

Oh – and in addition to the other lies CRW is telling people, they claim that the locker room stunt is a “test of the new law.” Trouble is, the law doesn’t go into effect until February 19. That date, of course, is well past the deadline for their spectacularly unsuccessful referendum campaign. In other words, a publicity stunt like this that occurred when there could be an actual test of the law would do them no good.

Finally, even if the law were currently in effect, this stunt would not be a “test” of it in any way. It is not now, nor has it ever been, illegal for persons to use whatever facilities they choose. Women commonly use the men’s room when the line for the women’s room is too long, for instance. What is, and will continue to be illegal, is harassing behavior. This is the case regardless of gender, gender expression, sartorial taste or lack thereof, or any other characteristic. We said it here, Teach the Facts has been saying it consistently, but it bears repeating:

The fact is, they had to make up this incident because it wouldn’t happen on its own. No transitioning transgender person is going to call attention to themselves in this way — the Rio gym even has a third bathroom that a customer could use, just for that purpose — and any voyeur who puts on a dress to go look at the women in the ladies locker room will be arrested. The CRW is campaigning on a lie, and they are desperate to make it seem real.

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