Whether it's because of ancient locker-room nightmares or present day fluctuations in my weight, I have body issues. A few years ago, when I was at my maximum weight (a number I am totally not telling you) I realized that those issues were causing me a real problem: I was so unnerved by the idea of being nude in a gym locker room it kept me from actually using the gym.
Not wanting to spend money on therapy sessions to dig down to the roots of this particular mental issue, I chose the cheaper route: I bit the bullet and started getting naked.
It was during this period that I made my first trek out to Spa World, the Korean spa in Centreville renowned for offering the most relaxation you can find short of lounging on fluffy clouds held aloft by unicorns. It's also, to American eyes, stark raving naked. I'm not going to go into some long explanation of cultural differences, but I'll note that Spa World offers a corporate membership package for ''business owners who often entertain guests.''
While I'm sticking to lunch and happy hour to conduct my business entertainment needs, I found that Spa World's relaxing nature lived up to its reputation: lounging around the different stations of the bade pool, a body scrub so thorough it removes anything not attached directly to bone, a full-body massage that leaves you feeling melted.
So, yes, I was taken aback when I first saw word that Spa World had become the focus of a Better Business Bureau complaint for forcing a transgender woman to leave, a sudden reminder that even amid all the relaxation and smiling faces you're still in Virginia where it remains legal to discriminate against LGBT people.
When I've been at Spa World, I've seen that it's fairly diverse for what is at heart a traditionally Asian business: local Korean and Vietnamese families with kids in tow, bunches of European travelers, and a lot of gay guys. Despite raised eyebrows and a handful of Craigslist ads, it's not a huge gay pick-up place. The worst behavior by gays that I've seen is a couple of bears who hogged one of the bade pool stations for half an hour. My mother-in-law goes there often for pedicures and foot massages, which I can't say about any other place of business in which I've been naked over the past 20 years or so. So I take Spa World at face value when they talk about being a ''family'' place.
And I'm willing to cut a little slack to Spa World when it says that some of the offensive language used in their response to the BBB complaint — ''any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s)'' — was a problem of translation, because I know from dealing with my own family that English as a second language can genuinely create confusion.
But even as Spa World has publicly followed up on the incident by saying that it does not discriminate against LGBT people, its spokesperson raised my antennae by saying, ''If anybody acts inappropriately, sexually or morally, we reserve the right to ask them to leave.'' I understand kicking out people for inappropriate sexual behavior; I'd just like to know how they define ''morally'' inappropriate. If it sounds like a loophole, it often is a loophole.
I hope that Spa World does the right thing by apologizing to the woman they kicked out and creating a formal nondiscrimination policy. Given Virginia's lack of protections for us — a ridiculous second-class citizenship given that when taken separately from the state NoVa is a very LGBT-friendly place — it would be a good example for other local businesses.
And seeing the welcome mat fully extended, I can get back to relaxing.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him on Twitter @seanbugg....more
A Korean-style spa in Centreville, Va., popular with many D.C.-area residents, including members of the LGBT community, continues to receive heat from activists who feel the spa has much further to go than a recent statement of nondiscrimination and miscommunication if it's to atone for an incident in which a woman was asked to leave the venue, allegedly due to her perceived gender identity.
According to a story posted Feb. 22 on FairfaxTimes.com, the woman, Riya Suising, who identifies as a member of the LGBT community, said that the spa staff asked her to leave because they had received complaints regarding her presence in the female locker room. After receiving a refund of her money, Suising filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which opened an investigation into Spa World's policies regarding LGBT patrons. During that investigation, Spa World made what many perceive to be anti-LGBT comments that included calling homosexuality ''abnormal'' and saying spa would not accept LGBT patrons.
By March 1, the story gained traction on social media, prompting outrage among some patrons. Local residents shared the story via Facebook, tweeted statements criticizing Spa World and posted negative reviews on the business's Yelp page. Several customers also told Metro Weekly that, following the controversy, they had asked for and received refunds from the discount-offers website Groupon, which had offered special packages for day passes to Spa World.
Activists also launched at least four different online petitions urging Spa World to change its policies. One such petition, appearing on SignOn.org, a petition site affiliated with the online progressive organizing community MoveOn.org, started by Jessie Posilkin of D.C. in conjunction with the progressive organization Virginia New Majority, called for Spa World to issue a formal apology to Suising and post a nondiscrimination statement on its website. As of Tuesday, Posilkin's petition had garnered nearly 900 signatures.
On Monday, a spokesman for Spa World clarified that despite the spa's initial written response to the BBB in which it said gay and transgender customers were not welcome, the spa does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender and welcomes LGBT people as patrons.
''We don't discriminate against anyone,'' Spa World spokesman Tim Cho told Metro Weekly. ''If anybody acts inappropriately, sexually or morally, we reserve the right to ask them to leave. But we don't discriminate against anyone in terms of gender or sexual orientation.
Cho's statement followed comments Spa World manager James Lee had given to the Washington City Paper saying the written response to the BBB was meant to communicate that sexual activity is not permitted at the spa, but was complicated by a miscommunication stemming from a ''Korean-English'' language barrier.
Following the clarification of Spa World's policy, Groupon issued a statement defending Spa World and chalking up the weekend controversy to a misunderstanding due to miscommunication.
''This was literally a situation where intent was lost in translation,'' Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler told Metro Weekly. ''Groupon does not tolerate any form of discrimination by our merchants or customers, and the management of Spa World has reassured us that they welcome all patrons. We're confident Groupon customers can have a respectful, satisfactory experience in the future and thus will continue to work with Spa World.''
Groupon did not respond to a follow-up email from Metro Weekly asking if Groupon would continue offering refunds for Spa World packages if customers were still offended.
But for Posilkin and others, Spa World's attempts to rehabilitate its image by clarifying its policy don't go far enough.
''We found their statement on Facebook and Twitter calling the outrage 'ignorant comments' just one of many signs that they don't quite get the level and severity of their mistake,'' Posilkin, a past patron, wrote in an email to Metro Weekly, referring to comments posted by the business over the weekend. ''There's talk of an action at Spa World this weekend unless Spa World posts a public nondiscrimination statement and issues an apology to Riya.''
Posilkin told Metro Weekly that the form that action might take had not yet been decided.
''This incident isn't over until [Spa World] institute[s] a formal policy of nondiscrimination based on gender identity and sexuality,'' Rishi Awatramani, Virginia New Majority's organizing director, said in a statement. ''But Spa World's behavior is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Until our local and statewide politicians commit themselves to protecting people of all genders and sexual orientations from discrimination, businesses like Spa World will not be accountable to Virginia residents. Our state and county politicians must take action.''
Equality Virginia, the state's primary LGBT-advocacy organization had previously entered the fray by circulating a petition urging Spa World to change its policy. But even after the clarification from the spa, Equality Virginia used the incident to emphasize Virginia's lack of legal protections for LGBT people.
''While Spa World has informally stated an intent not to discriminate again, we hope they will take the next step in adopting a formal policy protecting their LGBT customers,'' James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said in a statement. ''As consumers, we decide with our wallet to support businesses that support us. As citizens, we must use this as an opportunity to urge Virginia's lawmakers to work towards protections in public accommodations, employment and housing to make the Commonwealth a friendlier place to live and do business.''...more
A Korean-style spa in Centreville, Va., popular with many D.C.-area residents, including members of the region's LGBT community, is clarifying its policy regarding discrimination after claims that the business allegedly discriminated against a woman due to her perceived gender identity.
According to a story posted Feb. 22 on FairfaxTimes.com, the woman, who describes herself as a member of the LGBT community, filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) after being asked to leave Spa World, prompting an investigation into the business's policies. In a statement submitted to the BBB, Spa World explained its policy was not to accept ''any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals or transgender(s).'' The spa also told BBB that ''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 not to accept them.''
Neither Virginia nor Fairfax County offer any protections for LGBT people in public accommodations, meaning that, legally, a business can refuse to serve or admit LGBT patrons.
By March 1, that story gained traction on social media, prompting outrage among members of the local LGBT community, including several Spa World patrons. Straight allies also complained, with local residents sharing the story via Facebook, tweeting their outrage and posting negative reviews on Spa World's Yelp page.
Equality Virginia, the state's primary LGBT-advocacy organization, entered the fray by circulating a petition urging Spa World to change its policy. The organization used the incident to emphasize that Virginia lacks the same kinds of legal protections that exist in Maryland and D.C. for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people; and in D.C. for transgender people. Maryland is currently considering a bill that would prohibit discrimination statewide based on gender identity. About half the state's residents are currently covered by county-level laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender expression and identity.
On Monday, however, a spokesman for Spa World clarified that, despite the spa's previous written response to the BBB, the business does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender and welcomes LGBT people as patrons.
''We don't discriminate against anyone,'' Spa World spokesman Tim Cho told Metro Weekly. ''If anybody acts inappropriately, sexually or morally, we reserve the right to ask them to leave. But we don't discriminate against anyone in terms of gender or sexual orientation.''
Spa World manager James Lee also told Washington City Paper over the weekend that the statement offered to the BBB was meant to communicate that sexual activity of any type is not permitted at the spa, but was complicated by a miscommunication stemming from a ''Korean-English'' language barrier.
Although the woman who initially filed the complaint wasn't engaged in sexual activity when she was asked to leave, Lee told the City Paper that staff had received complaints saying there was a man in the woman's locker room and that the situation ''caught us off-guard.'' Lee later said that transgender people would not be asked to leave the spa in the future.
Despite management's clarification, some locals are expressing hesitancy to return to the suburban spa.
''I don't think anybody objects to the idea that inappropriate sexual behavior should result in immediate expulsion. That was never the issue,'' Christian Gerard, a past patron of Spa World and a Centreville resident, told Metro Weekly. ''The statement that was made to the BBB by Spa World was very clear: Homosexuals are not welcome. And the reality is the incident that sparked this controversy did not in any way, shape or form include any type of alleged sexual behavior. The woman in question was asked to leave because of her appearance, not because of any behavior or actions on her part.''
While Gerard conceded that a language issue could have contributed to the confusion regarding the statement submitted to the BBB, he also said that the story of the woman's expulsion from the spa, as reported to FairfaxTimes.com, would seem to contradict any attempts to reduce the controversy to merely a miscommunication.
''I really think it's Spa World trying to '[cover your ass]' and backtrack in light of a very public backlash,'' Gerard said. ''I don't see how a language barrier could result in Spa World stating very simply that homosexuals are 'abnormal.' … I am not in any way more inclined to give them my business after their statement unless there is some further explanation as to why this woman was kicked out of the facility. It simply doesn't add up.''
Devon Alexander Stoney, of Washington, who on Friday was one of many customers who asked discount-offers website Groupon, which was offering a special package for Spa World, to refund the value of his pass, said he was not impressed with the statements offered by Spa World following the controversy.
''It is just a poor P.R. attempt,'' Stoney said. ''There is no public apology, nor is there a definition of 'morally' in their statement. It is purely subjective. … I would like to see a public apology that is sincere and some real defined rules that apply to everyone.''...more
As more states consider votes over marriage equality, it might be helpful to look back at what it does to reelection prospects.
A social media campaign and petition drive led to National Geographic sharing an essay about antigay discrimination on its website.
The couple was reportedly kicked out of the mall, though management denies even that much of the story.
In 2011, filmmaker Travis Matthews came to NakedSword with an idea for an unconventional film that would blend real people with real sex. That film, I Want Your Love, has now toured festivals, been written up in the New York Times, and been praised by filmmakers and audiences alike as a landmark in gay cinema. In March 2013, it finally comes home - and to you. I Want Your Love will make its online debut exclusively at NakedSword!
Noting that âsex in films hasnât had a chance to grow and become a sophisticated storytelling device,â Franco adds, âFrankly, adults should be able to choose â¦ I donât know why in this day and age, something like thisâ¦is being banned. Itâs just embarrassing.â
Franco also collaborated with Travis Mathews on âInterior. Leather Bar,âIn order to avoid an X rating, 40 minutes of gay S&M footage was rumored to be cut and destroyed from the 1980 film, âCruising.â Inspired by the mythology of this controversial film, filmmakers James Franco and Travis Mathews collaborate to imagine their own lost footage.
Amid the backdrop of a frenzied film set, actor Val Lauren reluctantly agrees to take the lead in the film. Val is repeatedly forced to negotiate his boundaries during scenes on and âoff camera,â as unsimulated gay sex happens around him. The film itself is constructed as a play with boundaries remaining queer in subject and form. As much a film about film-making as it is about an exploration of sexual and creative freedom, âInterior. Leather Bar.â defies easy categorization.
Published on Mar 4, 2013
Sydney Mardi Gras 2013
between 11- 11:30pm
Pavement just off Oxford St, Corner of Riley and Burton Street
ssaulting officer - FAIRFIELD LAC 266
I was a press photographer for the parade, walking along the backstreets shortly after it had concluded between 11pm and 11:30pm, we heard a man screaming for repeatedly for help.
Walking over we saw him being restrained by two police officers with another 4 in close proximity, he was repeatedly asking them "What have I done wrong?" which they would not respond, all they would say was "you are under arrest".
He calling for people walking past to help him and with a large crowd of people began to surround the event.
He was struggling and resisting but not aggressively.
The officers told him to stop resisting to which he would reply "why are you doing this I haven't done anything?."
The officer "FAIRFIELD LAC 266" then grabbed him by the back of the neck and slammed his head into the stone pavement, as he tried to get up he was then punched multiple times in the head, leaving blood all over the pavement. The crowd of people overlooking screaming at the officer to stop.
After seeing that I began filming.
What I found most shocking about this event is that the other officers seem to be aware that the amount of force they are using was completely unmerited and excessive.
So they hastily try to force me to stop filming.
As a press photographer I knew I was completely within my rights to film police officers in a public space, doing nothing wrong and breaking no laws, so I refused.
You will notice I ask multiple times why I am not allowed to film and what laws am I breaking and receive no response.
There were at least 6 officers in the immediate vicinity, the victim was only small and could have easily been restrained by the officers without injury.
Instead they choice to force him into submission by repeatedly punching him and throwing him into the pavement.
You'll also hear him asking over and over what he has done wrong to which he doesn't get a response. WATCH NOW
Pink Therapy director Dominic Davies and fellow therapist Pamela Gawler-Wright suggested GSD, or "Gender and Sexual Diversities," as a more inclusive community term in a new video posted on the group's Facebook page.
In the clip, Davies noted that the term LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) still excluded "a whole batch of people who didnât feel able to go to mainstream counseling organizations and also wouldnât necessarily be welcome at LGBT counseling organizations," including asexual people and those in otherwise non-traditional relationships, such as swingers.
Added Gawler-Wright: "Now we're allowing more of a spectrum...people need wider language, people need better language to have that conversation ... We exist at this time in a different way of thinking collectively and inclusively."
Officials on the group's Facebook page echoed those sentiments. "The point we're trying to make is not that our community shouldn't be called LGBT, it' that actually our community is SO much BIGGER than simply LGBT," they noted.
A kiss in is planned at a California mall after a gay couple was asked to leave for kissing and holding hands.Â Daniel Chesmore and Jose Guzman said they did nothing more than hold hands and kiss, but the mall cop at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, Californina said they were participating in sexually explicit [...]
âThe Marvelous Marilyn Mayeâ â" it’s a phase that me and my husband have come to say with relish, and we get excited every time we get to see her. Ella Fitzgerald once called Maye âthe greatest white female singer in the worldâ, and I can tell you thatâs no exaggeration. There are younger singers [...]
The post Cabaret Review: Marilyn Maye appeared first on GaySocialites.com: More Than Just Gay News for Gay Men....
Jackie â" a theatrical dissection of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the myths surrounding her â" is without a doubt the best high art solo performance piece I’ve ever seen or read. And, because of love affairs with high art and solo performance, I’ve seen and read more of those than you might think. It’s very [...]
The post Theatre Review: “Jackie” appeared first on GaySocialites.com: More Than Just Gay News for Gay Men....
Despite recent news that the National Parks Service has decided to start enforcing state laws that prohibit public nudity on Fire Island this summer, the Pines and Cherry Grove section will evidently not be affected by this decision. Next Magazine is reporting that the Fire Island National Seashore Chief Ranger, Lena B. Koschmann, says that [...]
The GaySocialites ventured out on Thursday night to the Ritz in New York City where three of Manhattan’s biggest names in nightlife have come together for a night of good times, good music and good people! DJ’s Steve Sidewalk and Cazwell join forces with hostesses Peppermint and Chaka Convict for a little bit of Heaven [...]
The post Is the Ritz the new Thursday hot spot? appeared first on GaySocialites.com: More Than Just Gay News for Gay Men....