Topless Transgender Visitors Create Confusion in Rehoboth - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Reported by Michael Lopardi

Topless Transgender Visitors Create Confusion, Questions in Rehoboth Beach

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Rehoboth Beach's indecent exposure law requires men to cover their buttocks and genitals - women to cover their buttocks, genitals and breasts - under circumstances where their conduct could alarm another person. (Photo: WBOC) Rehoboth Beach's indecent exposure law requires men to cover their buttocks and genitals - women to cover their buttocks, genitals and breasts - under circumstances where their conduct could alarm another person. (Photo: WBOC)

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - The captain of the Rehoboth Beach Patrol said he will seek clarification on the law and consider creating a new policy after several topless transgender people initially resisted requests by lifeguards to cover their breasts on the beach.
 
Lifeguards sought guidance from city police after beach visitors near Queen Street complained that several male-to-female transgender people had their breasts exposed on the beach over the weekend, said Captain Kent Buckson.

The visitors initially refused to cover up, claiming discrimination, but eventually agreed to comply, Buckson said. The people involved had either transitioned or were in the process of transitioning to become female and some had breast implants, Buckson said.
 
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said the city already has laws regulating which parts of the body generally need to be covered in public but said it is a gray area when it comes to transgender people.
 
Banks said no one received a citation for the incident and said he did not believe his officers actually contacted those involved, though he admitted that he had not yet spoken to responding officers about the complaint.
 
The city's indecent exposure law requires men to cover their buttocks and genitals - women to cover their buttocks, genitals and breasts - under circumstances where their conduct could alarm another person. Banks said the people complaining were alarmed by what they saw. Another ordinance bans topless bathing suits for females older than 5.
 
Buckson said he will consult with City Manager Gregory Ferrese and Solicitor Glenn Mandalas about the existing rules and whether a separate policy should be created to handle similar events in the future. Lifeguards were caught off guard on how to deal with the situation, Buckson said.
 
Mandalas could not be reached for comment.
 
The news quickly spread through the resort town that has long attracted gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as a vacation destination.
 
"I think we tend to be overly prudish about things," said beach visitor Jerry Bieler. "A lot of European countries women go topless and there's no fuss. I think we tend to go and overexaggerate."
 
Sue Beardmore said she was nearby on the beach when the incident happened but did not actually see anyone topless.
 
"There were families very close with children and I think that's a little upsetting," Beardmore said.
 
Across town at the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, Executive Director Steve Elkins said he had already fielded several calls from concerned neighbors and even a state representative. CAMP Rehoboth has played a key role in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in the region.
 
"If a person was born male but identifies and is transitioning as a female, then they need to abide by the laws that deal with females," Elkins said. "But they also need to be respected and treated that way."
 
Elkins said he believes it is unfair that men are allowed to go topless while woman cannot but said that issue needs to be settled on a state-by-state level.

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