A SOUTHAMPTON transgender charity has raised concerns about national gym chain David Lloyd's policy towards transgender members.

Andi Maratos, CEO of Chrysalis, told the Daily Echo that transgender people are made to feel "miserable and frustrated" wherever they go.

Chrysalis supports transgender people and their significant others across Hampshire.

Andi spoke out after a spokesperson for David Lloyd was quoted in national media as saying: "Our policy is that unless the member holds a Gender Recognition Certificate, transgender members must use the facilities designated for their birth gender.”

The quote, which was given to the Huffington Post, was picked up by other news outlets and has led to calls to boycott the chain, which has gyms in Southampton, West End and Ringwood.

"No one is more aware than a transgender person of their lack of welcome in gendered spaces," Andi told the Echo.

"In the words of one of Chrysalis’ long-time supporters: 'It is incredibly miserable and frustrating to feel unsafe and out of place no matter where you go'.

"Transgender people report many instances of being challenged by gym users and staff and being forced to use specific changing facilities or even denied access to the gym at all.

"They leave 'feeling like freaks, like their very existence is an inconvenience to everyone'.

"I really hope that David Lloyds, and the other gym chains, work on promoting safe, inclusive, welcoming environments so that physical activity and fitness is something we can all access."

The Daily Echo repeatedly asked David Lloyd to clarify whether they stand by the statement published in the Huffington Post, but the organisation failed to respond directly.

Instead, it issued a statement which reads: "Our policies are, and always have been, completely in line with the rest of the fitness sector, following UKActive guidelines.

"We see no reason why there would be any discussion of the status of someone's gender unless this was raised either by the member themselves or if there was an issue of some sort. In that case we would trust and support our local teams to work with individual members one to one to resolve any problem sensitively and discreetly.

"Contrary to recent comments DLL does not have a practise of arbitrarily asking people for a Gender Recognition Certificates or any other such documentation; and should an issue arise for any reason we would trust and support our local teams to work with individual members one to one to resolve any problem sensitively and discreetly.

"We treat all our members equally, and have zero tolerance for any behaviour which puts at risk, disrespects, discriminates against, or causes concern to other members or to our team."

However, Andi continues to have concerns about practices at David Lloyd gyms.

She said: "It's great to see that David Lloyd’s policy is to enable all individuals to use their gyms in accordance with their duties under the Equality Act and UKActive guidelines.

"However, the report in Huffington Post and the organisation's subsequent silence on the matter (prior to speaking to the Echo) makes me question whether staff understand the policy and how to implement it.

"The Act states that people should not be disadvantaged as a result of a protected characteristic and whoever spoke to the Huffington Post on behalf of David Lloyd demonstrated that they at least would jeopardise transgender people’s safety and wellbeing by insisting on them using the changing facilities of their birth gender.

"They also demonstrated ignorance of the purpose of a gender recognition certificate and that to ask a transgender person to produce one is a criminal act. I hope that David Lloyd are investigating how someone with transphobic views can be considered a representative of the company."

She added: "We have reached out directly to the managers of the local David Lloyd gyms, offering our support in helping their staff understand how best they can promote an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance at all their facilities. Thanks to the generosity of Solent University and others Chrysalis is running a conference on April 9, aimed at small and medium businesses and organisations like David Lloyds who don’t have huge resources for training but who understand how important it is for our communities to be inclusive, to be supportive of their diverse customers, staff and stakeholders."