Was a bathing suit controversy at a Michigan water park discrimination or a failure to follow the rules? A South Bend woman says managers at WildWater Adventure in Muskegon told her she couldn’t go in the water because of what she was wearing.
It happened at the water park connected with Michigan’s Adventure July 9. Instead of a women’s bathing suit she wore men’s swimming trunks.
“I hate to say it, but I think it’s because I’m a lesbian,” said Jill Sweeney, who feels she was singled out.
Last Wednesday she and her wife spent the first three hours of their bachelorette party at WildWater Adventure with family and friends.
“I’d already been in the lazy river and the wave pool and then my sister in law went up to go down the slide. And that’s when I was stopped,” Sweeney said. “A supervisor had come up and she said, ‘Ma’am, you have to wear a women’s bathing suit. You’re not allowed to wear men’s.’”
Sweeney was shocked.
“It’s not right. It’s not fair,” she told WSBT.
She said she checked the park’s rules online ahead of time, which “requires all participants to be in swim suits.” It also says street clothes such as athletic clothing and jean shorts are not allowed.
“There’s nothing on their site that says gender specific so what’s wrong with what I was doing compared to anyone else?” she asked. “There’s a lot of females out there that don’t like to expose their body and will wear what I had on.”
Sweeney said she was wearing men’s swimming trunks, a tank top and sports bra.
When contacted by telephone, the park’s general manager told WSBT Sweeney was in violation of park rules.
“A sports bra would not be a swim suit. We require our patrons to wear swim suits and street clothes of any kind would not be allowed,” said WildWater Adventure general manager Camille Mark.
Mark went on to say, “There are all kinds of non-gender specific swimwear available. …According to state guidelines, we do require soap showers and swimwear like all public pools in Michigan.”
But Sweeney said the park has no rules about gender specific clothing.
“It’s embarrassing and it hurts. It really does,” she said.
Sweeney also said she’s contacted several attorneys who handle discrimination cases, but said it’s not about the money. She wants an apology for how she was treated.
When asked about Sweeney saying she felt singled out because she’s gay, Mark said, “I couldn’t possibly comment on that. How would anyone be aware of [Sweeney’s] sexuality?”
Sweeney also showed WSBT pictures of other people at the park who were in the water, not wearing bathing suits.
Mark said lifeguards might be less likely to notice people who are not wearing proper swim attire in places like the wave pool because there are lots of people in it at the same time. But the slide situation – where Sweeney was stopped – is a one-on-one interaction with lifeguards.
Kelli Stopczynski – WSBT