When women and girls head into the locker room after a day at the pool, the last thing they expect to see is an obese, naked man. But that’s exactly what Janell Holloway saw last September when she encountered Darren Glines, a man identifying as a transgender woman at the YMCA in her hometown of Xenia, Ohio.

The YMCA, or Young Men’s Christian Association, markets itself as family-friendly. In reality, the organization has allowed transgender-identifying individuals to use the locker room of their choice for several years. Some have pointed out that this administrative direction overrides any safety or privacy concerns felt by women like Holloway, who attempted to confront the Xenia YMCA leadership about the male in the locker room. 

Not only did they brush aside her discomfort and shock, they openly admitted that they knew there was a biological male habitually using the women’s locker room. To Holloway’s dismay, they planned to do nothing about it. 

As a result of the YMCA’s disregard for common-sense privacy and security, two children were exposed to the same man in November 2022. Their mother, who chose to remain anonymous, said that she exited the shower stall before her daughters. When she reached the locker area, she saw Glines.

“He [was] completely naked, and he was facing out,” she told IWF Visiting Fellow Mary Margaret Olohan. “I was just totally freaked out.”

Glines’ obesity worked in his favor—he avoided charges for indecent exposure since his lawyer argued that his belly fat would have obscured any private areas. He walked free despite the many complaints against him—including one involving three children. 

Besides exposing himself to women and underaged girls, Glines allegedly sexually assaulted Kateisha Young, an employee at the neighboring YMCA in Fairborn. Young, who said that she had tried to be a friend to Glines after mistakenly believing that he had faced discrimination, accompanied him to a local Waffle House to talk about his mental health. As she leaned in to give him a parting hug, Young alleged that Glines aggressively groped her.

“I was wrong for overlooking the girls’ trauma at the Xenia YMCA,” she told Olohan, “and I accept that. I learned a hard lesson through my own experience, and I regret my ignorance very much.”

Young texted Glines, informing him that they could no longer be friends because of what he had done. He refused to respect her wishes, repeatedly coming up to her desk during her shifts at the YMCA. In the end, she filed a protective order against him, which was granted but then overruled by a local judge who claimed that Glines’ groping of Young was not coercive. 

These three incidents surrounding Darren Glines reveal that women’s sex-segregated spaces are under attack in Ohio. In response to the Ohio women coming forward with their stories, Independent Women’s Forum Storytelling Coordinator Andrea Mew said that the YMCA had “once again let down its female members, ultimately stripping them of any common-sense protections.”

This isn’t the first time the YMCA has let women and girls down. Last year, 16-year-old Abbigail Wheeler encountered two biological males in the locker room at her local YMCA in Illinois. After repeatedly trying to resolve the issue through official channels, she resorted to hanging “women only” signs outside the locker room. In response, the YMCA kicked her off the swim team. 

“Just like when 16-year-old Abbigail Wheeler spoke out about a biological male in her Illinois YMCA locker room, these women’s dignity and their right to privacy [are] once again on the chopping block,” Mew added. 

Women and girls deserve to be treated with dignity and respect at the YMCA. Although the organization was originally male-only, it formally incorporated women into its purpose statement in 1957. Logically, then, the YMCA’s mission statement should apply to women as well as men: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” 

According to the Christian tradition that the YMCA allegedly espouses, however, men and women are biologically distinct and of equal value. If the YMCA supports the fact that men and women are different, why are sex-specific locker rooms seemingly no longer allowed? If men and women are of equal value, why are females’ privacy and safety secondary to males’ feelings? The YMCA claims to support equal opportunity for women, yet as we now have witnessed in Ohio and Illinois, it dismisses their concerns. Women’s safety must be protected if the YMCA is to regain its standard of inclusivity and dignity for all.