Parents in the oceanside community of Nanaimo, British Columbia are sounding the alarm about a man who claims to identify as “female” behaving in what they say is a predatory manner while using the women’s facilities at the local Aquatic Centre.
Janayh Wright, a photographer and mother of three, spoke to Reduxx about her own encounter with the man — one she says she had heard about before interacting with herself. Wright explains that she was aware of rumors that a male had been using the women’s facilities at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre from other parents, some of whom said they had lodged complaints with both staff and local police.
On February 3, Wright was visiting the pool with her daughter and niece. She told Reduxx that she would typically wait for her daughter outside of the changing room, but decided to accompany her that day.
While in the changing room, Wright witnessed a man wearing a wig and a face mask enter the women’s facility and proceeded to walk over to the shower area. Wright says he did not have a towel or pool bag, and gave no indication that he was getting changed or going swimming. He then returned and entered the stall next to the one Wright’s daughter was changing in.
Wright watched as the man tried to peer under the stall and into the one her daughter was using. She immediately confronted him as he exited, but the man simply responded that he identified as female and that it was his “human right to be in the women’s changing room.”
Wright told him that she didn’t care what he identified as, and that he shouldn’t be peeking under the stalls at young girls.
She escorted the man out of the changing room and reported the incident to the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre staff, who told her that she was not allowed to kick him out. They warned her that she could be arrested and charged for her actions. Incredulous, Wright phoned the police and reported what had happened. The situation is currently under investigation.
But Wright is not the only local parent to have run-ins with the man in the changing room of the Aquatic Centre.
Word of the intruder had first started circulating on Facebook in late January when users began publicly sharing a post that had originally been made in a private group for Nanaimo mothers.
“Yesterday at Nanaimo Aquatic Center there was a man in the female changing room watching women and children undress,” the post, made on January 26, began.
“They had a short brown wig concealing their face and neon green/black runners… They kept taking on and off their shoes and walking to and from the showers/bathrooms to make it look like they were doing something. They sat in a private changeroom, fully dressed for about 10 minutes with the door open – strategically where a little girl was changing in front of.”
According to the post, multiple people alerted the Nanaimo Aquatic Center about the man, but they refused to intervene unless he was “causing a scene or harming someone.”
Speaking to Reduxx, Wright expressed that she is not transphobic, but that she has realized, “now, any predator can appropriate a transgender identity and gain access to our children. It’s opened my eyes to the fact that we don’t have rights as women and kids don’t have rights.”
“If I hadn’t been there and used my due diligence,” she added, “who knows what could have happened?”
On the evening of the incident, Wright made a widely-shared Facebook post about the encounter and was met with overwhelming support from parents and other community members, many thanking her for her actions.
One user shared the story of her own encounter with the man, writing: “We went a few days before this and he was there. He was staring at the girls getting changed and even went and sat in a change stall with it open and stared across at the people in the stall across. He just wandered around watching everyone.”
Wright told Reduxx that while she has received some messages accusing her of transphobia, the response has been 90% positive. “People are starting to wake up to it,” she said. “I was oblivious to the fact that you could [self-identify].”
Wright was referring to Bill C-16, which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include “gender identity” and “gender expression,” granting men access to single-sex female spaces like washrooms, changerooms, prisons, and rape shelters. Canada’s provincial human rights acts have similar language.
“There are loopholes in Bill C-16,” said Wright. “There is no safety for women and children.”
The day after the incident, Wright made another post thanking everyone for their support and inviting them to stand with her at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre in protest. Some news outlets covered the demonstration, but labeled it “anti-trans.”
Around 100 people showed up to support Wright and to voice their concerns not only over the incident but also about children’s safety and women’s rights.
One attendee, Scott Geiler, gave an impassioned speech to those gathered around:
“Single-sex spaces matter for the safety of our kids. They matter for women’s rights and safety; they matter for homosexuals… You have to start fighting for your sex-based rights… If you don’t use sex-based language, your rights will not be protected. Don’t let them shame you. You’re discriminated against on the basis of your sex.”
Geiler told Reduxx that the demonstration had largely been well-received by the community.
“So many women came, some fathers, and children with placards. Zero trans activists and absolute silence over at Nanaimo Pride.”
Nanaimo Pride did break its silence later that day with a Facebook post condemning the “anti-trans talking points” in the public response to the predatory man.
The post continued: “We simply can’t know right now whether this alleged offender is trans in the early stages of transition, or a cisgender man looking for loopholes, or a bad actor using a common fears as a lightning rod to create an anti trans mob.”
Wright says she is ignoring the accusations and focusing on what really matters: the safety of women and children. She is in the process of starting a non-profit and using the hashtag #makemesafe to spread the word across social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
“I just want to get the word out there that we aren’t safe as women and children,” Wright said when speaking to Reduxx. “My goal is to bring awareness and to have people stand up with me to ask the government to look at this and to create change for safety for women and children.”
Down the line, Wright hopes that the non-profit can grow into an organization that helps people who have suffered abuse and sexual trauma access counseling.
For now, her aim is to raise awareness and come up with a plan that will “create safety and equality for everyone.”
“My grandma was all about women’s rights back in the day and always advocated for it,” said Wright. “She has dementia now, but she would be standing right next to me if she was in her right mind. I’m going to do her proud. I know I can do this.”
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