A Virginia-based Korean spa facility is in hot water after a letter was made public in which it said that LGBT people are not permitted in its establishment because they have “abnormal sexual behaviors and orientation” and are a threat to children.
The Better Business Bureau opened up an investigation into the company, Spa World, after an LGBT customer complained that she was asked to leave the establishment because of her gender identity or sexual orientation. Spa World has nude single-gender bathing pools, and Riya Suisin recounts, “They told me that I was not welcome there and to leave because I looked a little different.”
A representative for the company responded to the Better Business Bureau investigation in a letter that demonstrated staggering homophobia and anti-trans sentiments:
The Better Business Bureau opened an investigation, and on Jan. 28, Spa World representative Sang Lee responded to the BBB in writing by stating “It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s).”
The Spa World written reply goes on to say that the spa stands by this policy for the sake of young children who utilize the facility. “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,” Lee wrote. Lee did not return calls seeking further comment.
When she received it, Suising said she could not believe the response.
Suising won’t see any retribution for the hateful language Spa World uses to refer to LGBT people, though: Unfortunately, Virginia has no anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The county in which Spa World is located, Fairfax, actually wants to pass a non-discrimination ordinance, but is not allowed to under the state’s “Dillon Rule,” which prevents localities from acting without permission from the state government. Virginia legislators have proposed changing the rule, but have not been able to do so.
Spa World has issued a clarification about the company’s policy on LGBT customers, blaming earlier reports of discriminatory practices on a miscommunication. In an interview with Washington City Paper, Spa World manager James Lee also attempted to clairfy the incident involving Suising:
But according to James Lee, Sang Lee 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,” James Lee says.
Suising wasn’t engaged in sexual activity when Spa World employees asked her to leave. “There was a woman inside of the woman’s sauna, and we had many complaints about that particular person, stating there was a man inside of the woman’s locker room,” James Lee. Although a transgender woman using Spa World’s nude areas doesn’t violate the bathhouse’s policy as Lee describes it, “It caught us all off-guard,” he says.
According to Lee, Spa World’s policy is to allow customers of any sexual orientation or gender identity. As for any future complaints regarding transgender customers, Lee says they won’t be asked to leave again.