UPDATE: Spa World manager James Lee said reports his business had admitted to refusing gay and transgender customers was inaccurate. Though he did not deny Suising's claim, Lee said President Sang Lee had misinterpreted the question, had meant to write only that sexual activity, either gay or straight, is not allowed at Spa World. "The Korean-English barrier just made a small miscommunication," he told Washington City Paper. (as of March 4 at 11:07 a.m.)
A public bath house in Virginia recently admitted to refusing gay and transgender visitors from entering its facilities.
Spa World, a huge, South Korean-style public bath house and spa, is located in Centreville, Va., not far from Washington, D.C. The spa's discriminatory policy came to light in January when a customer from California was told by a manager she needed to leave.
Riya Suising, who is transgender, told the Fairfax Times she was shocked and embarrassed by the incident, and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
“I can’t believe that they would discriminate based on physical appearance," Suising said, per the Fairfax Times. "I was not doing anything but keeping to myself.”
When the Better Business Bureau investigated Suising's complaint, Spa World's president Sang Lee wrote:
It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s).
Also, for the safety and the comfort of young children at Spa World, we strongly forbid any abnormal sexual behaviors and orientation in our facility. Despite the controversial issue of homosexuality and transgender, it is our policy to not accept them.
Spa World did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment.
In a feature on the Spa published Friday, the Washington City Paper's Sadie Dingfelder reported that "nudity is strictly enforced in the sex-segregated areas of Spa World." However, Dingfelder noted that the discrimination policy appeared to be unevenly enforced and wrote that she had observed a pair of women who appeared to be on an "ill-advised date" during her stint at the bath house.
News of the policy is spreading on Twitter, and a SignOn petition has been created, calling on the spa to "stop discriminating against" lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. "Allow people of all genders and sexual orientations to visit Spa World to rest and relax," the petition goes on to demand.
The Fairfax Times notes that there are no laws in Virginia prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender orientation. (The American Civil Liberties Union reports that such law exists in only a handful of states, including Suising's home state of California.)
A bill that would have protected state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation was sent to Virginia's General Assembly in January, but it effectively died in a House subcommittee last week.
Meanwhile, in December, Levi Pine, a transgender man, filed an Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) complaint against a spa in Chicago. Pine claimed a manager at the spa informed him he was making other patrons uncomfortable while showering in a public shower area and asked him to use a private shower.
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