Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Get The Heck Out Of Our "Family Friendly" Beach Club

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 14, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: North Carolina, public accommodations, Wrightsville Beach

"Family friendly" has become the new code for "we don't want you people here."hanover seaside club.jpg

The opposite of "family friendly" is "gay friendly," as in the recent story about a gay couple who went to a hotel touted as "gay friendly" by Expedia, only to be told that they weren't wanted because it is a "family" hotel.

As in, you're no part of our "family." As in, we're not comfortable with you, so why should we consider your comfort? Why should we have to adjust? We shun you. Get out.

In North Carolina, the Hanover Seaside Club forced out a long time member, whose family started the beach club, when she transitioned from male to female.

Out, out, out!

That ain't right. This isn't about "family" -- this is about not wanting to see any transgender people in the vicinity. This is another face of transphobia.

Here's the story.

Rachael Gieschen was a long-time member of the Hanover Seaside Club in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Her grandfather and his brothers helped to create it in the late 1890's.

When Rachael, a 69-year-old retired Air Force veteran, informed its board of directors she had transitioned from a man into a woman, they promptly told her to resign.

Two of her children are still members with her grandchildren.

Not our family, though.

She wrote a letter to the Club's board in 2008 to let them know about her transition the previous year. Then, long-time friends and acquaintances gave her the cold shoulder and she ate lunch alone at her last visit.

The Club's board of directors wrote to her and told her that members expressed discomfort:

...We also appreciate your recognition of some of the difficulties now raised by your membership, as reflected in your letter. "[H]ome away from home" and..."private island," well exemplifies the feelings our members have had for the Club as their private getaway.... [T]he board must always consider whether members will continue to feel comfortable and at home at the Club.

Although she had said she would use a private restroom, the letter replied that members would be uncomfortable regardless of which restrooms were used.

She unsuccessfully tried to get board members to meet with her and her therapist. They didn't want to learn anything about transgender identity.

Didn't know, didn't care.

The board also added two sentences to the Club's rules in April, 2009, that said "members acknowledge that this is a family friendly Club with an entrenched tradition of creating a comfortable environment for its members."

"Comfort" covers a pretty broad swath. It's reasoning that has been used in the past to exclude racial and religious minorities. It's been used to exclude gay people. And now it's being used to exclude transgender people.

Does a private club have a right to exclude people with whom they're uncomfortable? By and large that's absolutely true. But I also believe that people have a right to say something about that. If it's based on prejudice, I believe it is important to mark that and call attention to it.

I don't believe that the people at the Hanover Beach Club think they are acting from prejudice. They have placed this action in the category of "comfort," to which everyone aspires. We all want to be comfortable. I know I do. But at the same time, being transgender isn't like wearing a tinfoil hat, or dressing in rags, or some bizarre sexual fetish exhibited in public.

It's a different gender identity.

But that's a relatively new understanding in our society. The truth is, transgender identity is seen by many people as a bizarre sexual fetish. In part, that's a fault of the psychiatric profession that put it in that category.

Being gay used to be seen as a bizarre sexual fetish. When the psychiatric profession finally took it out of the psychiatric diagnosis book in 1972, society began to see it differently. It's taken a long time to change, and not all of our society is there yet.

Being transgender is just the latest in our society's learning curve around accepting new identities.

Ms. Gieschen has no immediate plans to sue the Club, but Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, continues to work with her as she considers her options.

Mr. Silverman sees this as an opportunity to teach an important lesson - to learn to deal with differences.

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My opinion of family friendly is that I have five kids and a foster son and I would say that makes me pretty damn family friendly. And to have been raised by someone who is queer, one son is Air Force, one is starting Navy, my daughter just finished law school at Suffolk and another son hopes to become a Marine. How is that for instilling American family values?
These people are giving me a rash.

Thank you for writing this. The word "family" has been totally co-opted by the right, as it has with the US flag, the term "American" and the entire concept of patriotism. They've all become codes for exclusion and repression. The flag or nationalist terms I don't honestly care about, but trying to use "family" as a code for normal is repulsive. a) because the creepiest stuff goes on in "normal" (aka cissexual/heterosexual) families and because I work hard to be a good parent and I'm not about to let anyone else dump all over that.

I believe "comfort level" in social situations is almost always a code for exclusion, so I don't share your gracious opinion of the club owners.

Out of curiosity do they have any Black members? Any Jewish members? Gay members? Do women get to serve on the board? How broad is their "comfort zone"?

I used to think that trans ppl are today where cis gay ppl were 20 years ago, but I keep revising that number upward. I am currently at about 40 years, so it is interesting that you mention 1972.

To misquote Groucho Marx, I don't care to belong to any club that won't have me as a member.

I am trying to figure what has happened to our Society. It seems instead of moving forward, we as a Society are moving backwards. I can recall when Christine Jorgensen made her transformation in the day and was treated as a celebrity. Everybody wanted a story and she had her pictures in many tabloids and since those times we in the Trans community are looked at more as the scourge of the Earth. Anybody have any logical explanation for this?

The reason they use family based arguments is the ick factor -- they don't want to be related to us, they don't want us to have any bit of that strong, solid foundation.

They have made denying us family an avocation for a hundred years.

It's why they demand we are sterile, why they deny us marriage and adoption, why they mock our self chosen families.

Family is too good for us. And they will stop our kinships any way they possibly can.

Just took the liberty of noting their Facebook page on my profile, along with a suggestion that folks check out what this "friendly" place does to folks it finds... eww, icky.

oneoffive | July 19, 2010 5:07 PM

HSC has a diverse membership including blacks, Asians, Jews, gays, oh yea and handicaps too. So get off that soapbox right now. They have quite a diverse waiting list too of people wanting to join.

BTW, the photo that's being used here, I don't believe it's being used with permission is it?

R has not made the full transition to being a female, he also has absolutely female qualities to him with it's in instincts, characteristics, etc.

This person has had to see his children and his grandchildren as his male persona - that is when they were talking to him. Oh, that was right up until he decided to seek publicity in his hometown instead of going after, oh, I don't know, maybe one of the many jobs that turned him down for what he supposedly is.

His kids asked that he not go the publicity route in the town that they live and work in. He blew them/us off. A parent is suppose to protect their children no matter the age and to purposely hurt them, that unacceptable.

This club provided solace for myself and my siblings after our mother died in 1978. We suddenly had "family" watching out for us constantly. It was a place that I got to know my grandfather, grandmother and loads of family and how we became tight knit. When my aunt died of cancer in '95 and her wake was held at the club, the line went forever with people, a diverse group from ALL walks of life, coming to pay respects.

Don't spout off about being non-family and the "ik-factor". You'll never find a more family oriented place. A safe haven NO MATTER who you are. The Hanover Seaside Club is no more closed minded then any of you are about any issue that you may have come across in your lives. Take a good, long, honest look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself honestly that no one in your life have you never shied away from because they were somehow, someway different. If you say, "Not me...." then you are a liar and you are lying to yourself.

R was offered his membership back as long as he came as his male persona which, right now he is more of than anything else.

You all only know a sliver of the story, you only know what R and his attorney have talked about in the news. Don't EVER forget that there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS more sides to a story like this. It's not just about the ratings, the Tweets, the Hits...there are the emotional costs, the relationships frayed or destroyed....but in the end, luckily, my family is strong and we will come together and we will be strong and we will survive. The Hanover Seaside Club will too. Unless you DO know all aspects of something, you really have no right to sit there and play arm chair commentator.

Thank you, oneoffive, for your comment. I understand your sense of injustice, but keeping someone out because they are transgender is not right.

I acknowledge your point about HSC's diverse membership, and that is good to know. It also shows that the club is willing to learn about diversity and its importance. Just as the club accommodated those diverse elements, and I am sure that had its difficulties, now, one step further is being asked. It's new for many people in our society, and new things can be difficult to understand.

As far as "making the full transition to being female," I'm not exactly sure what you mean. Her gender identity is female. What more do you need?

As for the family's restricting her from seeing her children and grandchildren unless she dressed the way they wanted and acted the way they wanted -- this too is wrong, although understandable due to fear. I was also asked to do the same when my son was young, and I refused to do so at a certain point. Today he is 18, and we have a wonderful relationship. I also have a wonderful relationship with his mother, though it was also rough going at first. I agree that a parent is supposed to protect their children, but at a certain point, demands of adult children go beyond protection and into the realm of controlling.

I'm glad to hear that the club provided solace for you after your mother passed. That is always a sad moment.

As for "a safe haven NO MATTER who you are," that doesn't jibe with the events here. I don't pretend that I have no biases, but when they are called to my attention I deal with them. "R was offered his membership back as long as he came as his male persona which, right now he is more of than anything else." Your very words, denying her gender identity, and using male pronouns, and saying that you have a right to control a person's gender identity and expression -- you demonstrate the problem right there. The fact that the club turned down the offer to learn about gender identity from an expert therapist shows a certain unwillingness to learn.

I'm sorry that these events have been difficult for you, but I hope that you, and the whole club, will begin to learn something about this new area of diversity.

As far as the photo, I'm not sure permission is needed, but if asked by the club, I would certainly take it down.

Transpeople have a double whammy. Not only do we have to come out like GL people, we gotta prove we are good at it. As a lesbian I know told me "Lesbian's only have to prove they are good at it to their partner".Transpeople have to be below 6 feet, wear age appropriate clothes, have female bone structure, and talk like our culture expects that women talk or we are seen as failures. The same applies to transmen except they seem to attract less scrutiny usually. It is very hard to transition at 69, especially after living a life as a passing straight guy. What these clubbers may have seen is not a woman, but a guy they knew for decades acting really not "top drawer, old man". But I wasn't there, never heard of the place, so maybe I am totally like you know way wrong.