I am a 32 year-old gay man who lives and works in D.C. I am writing to tell you about an experience I had (July 3, 2021, between the hours of 12 and 4pm) while visiting the Harry Thomas Recreation Center in Northeast Washington, D.C. While swimming in the pool with a friend, I overheard 3 young kids shouting homophobic slurs over the course of a 3 hour period. The pool was relatively empty, with only about 7 people swimming during this time. At one point, one of the lifeguards began engaging in conversation with these kids, using the homophobic slurs himself and doing nothing to put an end to the offensive dialogue.
Of course, had the pool been more crowded, it would have been perfectly understandable for the lifeguard to miss the conversation, but the pool was empty, and the lifeguard joined in himself. As a gay man myself, I have experienced a lifetime of homophobia, and I refuse to put up with it at a public place where I choose to spend my free time. I requested to speak with the manager of the pool, and when I informed him of the homophobic conversation that had been occurring for hours between his lifeguard and the kids swimming in the pool, he indicated that he was already aware of the conversation but had done nothing to stop it.
It was also made clear to me that the lifeguards at Harry Thomas had had no LGBTQ+ sensitivity training to help ensure they are inclusive and can effectively put a stop to offensive conversations and behaviors. We live in a big city with millions of people who come from different walks of life. It’s imperative that everyone be made to feel like they belong at our public pools. No authoritative figure should be engaging in discriminatory, offensive, homophobic conversations while being responsible for the safety of everyone in the pool.
I also emailed the same note to the below places but heard nothing back.
Department of Parks and Recreation: [email protected]
Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services: [email protected]
DC Office of Human Rights: [email protected]
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