City Desk

Spa World Rejects Gay, Trans Customers

Update, 5:41 p.m.: Spa World's manager says that it welcomes LGBT customers and will not kick out trans visitors in the future.

This week's Washington City Paper cover story on 24 hours inside Spa World might have you yearning for a trip to the Centreville business, but if you're gay or transgender, you're out of luck. That's because Spa World won't admit LGBT customers, the Fairfax Times reports.

The policy became obvious after Spa World ejected a transgender woman, according to the Times. After the woman filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Spa World responded that it was simply enforcing its policy.

“It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s)," Spa World's Sang Lee wrote to the Better Business Bureau, according to the Times.

Spa World doesn't allow LGBT people out of concern for the "safety and comfort of young children," according to Spa World's response. "Despite the controversial issue of homosexuality and transgender, it is our policy to not accept them,” Lee writes, according to the Times.

Spa World hasn't responded to a request for comment from City Desk.

UPDATE, 3:38 p.m.: has a petition asking Spa World to allow LGBT customers.

UPDATE, 3:40 p.m.: A Spa World employee who answered the phone just now wouldn't give a name, but said this: "We have been told to say, 'The Fairfax Times story is inaccurate. We do not discriminate against people, we discriminate against behavior.'" It's not entirely clear what that means. Manager James Lee is expected to be on duty in a few hours, and City Desk will update if we hear back from him.

Spa photo by Shutterstock

Sadie Dingfelder contributed to this report.

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  • Don

    "This week's Washington City Paper cover story on 24 hours inside Spa World might have you yearning for a trip to Centreville business"

    Did you read your own article? It made me way less interested in going, even before learning they're bigoted jerks.

  • Shevonne

    All I can say is wowwwww

  • Bill

    What kind of "spa" is this? Is there a common area? Gender segregated areas? Do customers come in contact with each other while naked?

    That might be an important part to know.

  • Ko

    They were not following their own policy, Transgender is not a sexual orientation.

  • Kiki

    So, what happens when all of their gay customers, myself included, ask Groupon for a refund?

  • Jimmy Jilbong

    Korean spas are segregated by gender where everyone is naked within their separate areas, and there are mixed gender areas where clothing is required.

    While discriminating against gays is completely bogus, I think having naked transgender people in areas where everyone of one gender/set of genitals is a complicated issue to say the least.

    I'd see no problems hanging out in the common areas though.

  • VeggieTart

    I thought many spas didn't allow children in the first place because they tend to disturb paying grown-up customers. And I fail to see how someone being gay would scare a child.


  • JT

    Just FYI, it is unclear whether the patron in question identifies as transgender. It does seem, however, that she was ejected on the basis of her appearance being deemed too "masculine". Here is a link to her Yelp review:

  • Ben

    This makes me chuckle. The only reason I know of spa world is for all the gay guys I know who go, sometimes in social groups.

    I hope they all return their Groupons.

  • Spa World for All
  • JS

    A few minutes ago, I contacted Groupon requesting a refund for my voucher to Spa World. I'm appalled by their homophobia and transphobia.

  • MP

    I haven't done a survey, but speaking casually with other customers, I've gotten the strong impression that Spa World has a significant gay clientele. Or did, that is. Many visits it seemed that the majority of non-Korean men there were gay. Someone should clue the owners in to how much business they stand to lose.

  • Spa World for All
  • Anita

    I have been to this spa and yes there are gender areas, nameley the water areas within each locker room, where there are no clothes allowed. I don't how I would feel if a transgendered person were in the "ladies" locker room and water area. You might identify as female by dress and conduct, but physically you are still a man! If this is ok, then the whole concept of the spa's offerings via the locker room and water area's would be null and void, they would have originally just had a group water area!

  • SW

    @VeggieTart: One would think, but I saw lots of kids running around the women's Bade Pool when I was there. I WISH they would ban kids from Spa World, but I'm not going back there anyway.

  • bob

    I say they make the spa completely integrated - let all sexes and gender identities mingle in nudity-required spa areas.

  • #Awkward

    As a gay male, I fully acknowledge the T of LGBT receives a whole different level of discrimination. Sadly, I think this is just one area of society where the physical issue of being Transgender isn't going to be easily solved and for the sake of the other customers, may have to be banned.

    While I have no problem with Transgender people, at the same time will never understand the tough life they have been giving, I would be lying if I didn't say I would be uncomfortable to around a Pre-Operation Transgender 'Male' at SpaWorld.

    @SW: Totally agree about the children at SpaWord but it is 'family friendly'

  • Jon

    @ Jimmy and Anita: The Fairfax Times article explained that the transgendered woman who was asked to leave has female genitalia. Customers complained because she was bigger than most women (for being born male), but her genitalia was no different from the other women in the spa.

  • Gregg

    I am the one who wrote the article and I have a copy of the written document sent to the Better Business Bureau by Spa World. The quotes from that document outlined in the article are accurate.

  • Sandy

    Its a semi open spa room. I wouldn't want to be there no matter what. Sorry no offence but not comfortable around others naked.

  • DY

    To all those folks saying they'd feel uncomfortable occupying a nudity-required space alongside transgender people, I'd encourage you to examine exactly why it is you feel that way. I'd also encourage you to get over it. I imagine there are a lot of folks (transgender and otherwise) who feel uncomfortable occupying spaces alongside bigots. Can we ban bigots from Spa World?

  • ari

    The original response from the owner said, "strongly forbid any abnormal sexual behaviors and orientation in our facility", which gives me the impression they didn't want to make other customers feel uncomfortable if two people were acting lewd in their facility (be it in the segregated room or common room areas), and pre-op transgender as it might make others in the segregated rooms extremely uncomfortable. I don't think it is right to outright -ban- people of any orientation nor based on physical appearance, but perhaps they should reword their policy to what would truly "bother" the average spa-goer, such as "inappropriate sexual behaviors", where a heterosexual couple can be subject to the same rules.

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  • craigs list

    Just go to Craig's List M4M missed connections to see why he doesn't want gays there.

  • Francis

    The woman in question isn't trans, she got mistaken as trans because she has a more muscular body shape because she runs marathons. Which makes this story even more ridiculous because they're discriminating against someone not even for who they are, but based off gender stereotypes. They're also implying LGBT people are a threat to children. That we need to keep LGBT persons away from children. The original comments, BTW, said that the company doesn't invite abnormal sexual ORIENTATIONS, not behaviors, and said specifically they do not allow gay/trans persons at the spa.

    The trans issue can be solved with gender neutral rest areas. The answer is not banning trans persons from the spa. And of course it's even more irrelevant in non-nude communal areas whether a person is or isn't trans.

    The boycott has been swift and immediate and the backtracking is pathetic to watch.

  • Garrett

    Let's all say this together now, "Being gay, lesbian, or transgendered does NOT mean you molest children. Those people are called PEDOPHILES." And here's another factoid, statistically they identify as straight males.

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  • https://googlesites/site/naacbadaag argofuggyourself

    Good for them GLBT need to respect others also, and stop thinking that the world owes them something.

    Some times people offend other just by their manner of dress and mannerisms. What wrong with keeping ones sexuality where it belong, not in public?

  • Jimmy

    According to an article in the Huffington Post, Riya is transgender. I take that to mean that she was born a man.

  • oldcustomer

    As a long-time SW customer and very progressive legal professional, I am disappointed at SW's unfriendly LBGT policy. Aside from the recent Transgender issue which is a very difficult/painful social accommodations issue to resolve amidst 'traditional gender-stratification', I do begrudgingly appreciate SW Management's conundrum towards the actions of some openly gay bepatrons.

    As I write from this comfortable couch at Spa World, SW is a virtual Ghost Town for a Friday night. I'll estimate there is no more than 50 patrons here. A year or so ago, there would be more than 200+ diverse visitors including members of the LBGT.

    Over the last few years, it became clearly evident to me--as well as SW Management--that some gay/bisexual men have been using the same-sex bade pool, steam room and sleeping rooms as a venue to "cruise" for on-premise sexual activity and off-premise sexual partners. In fact, I actually witnessed two men in the bade pool/steam room 'indiscreetly' fondling each other genitalia. Small Korean children were nearby. The same visit, a gay Indian male from Calcutta propositioned me for sex after we had the type of friendly, innocuous, CLEARLY NON-SEXUAL stranger chit-chat that occasionally occurs at SW.

    Though I am a straight male, I've been an LBGT ally since my law school days at Michigan. Nonetheless, SW is NOT an appropriate place for individuals of any sexual orientation to engage in on-premise sexual acts. Folks should use caution when propositioning someone for a date, let alone off-premise sexual activity.

    I hope SW will change its policy and find ways to ensure that all are welcome to visit and enjoy SW.