The story of man in Singapore whose gay rights t-shirt annoyed his fellow gym goers has gone viral and inspired other LGBTI people.
Koh Jee Leong a tank top with the words ‘gay but not yet equal’ on the front and ‘equality for all’ to the SAFRA Mount Faber Club Gym.
Gym management confronted Koh last week after several people complained about his tank top. They accused him of trying to change a sensitive social policy or issue.
The New York based poet uses the SAFRA gym when he goes home to visit Singapore. It was on his fourth trip to the gym during his latest visit that he received the complaint.
The SAFRA (Singapore Armed Forces Reservist Association) gyms for National Servicemen and their families.
‘He (the manager) also said that “the social issue” was sensitive nationally, and that SAFRA could not allow any social advocacy,’ Koh wrote on Facebook.
‘I explained that I was not trying to change any social policy, but I was just wearing a tank top specially designed by a New York designer.
‘I should have also said that I wasn’t standing by the water cooler and passing out flyers, I was just working on my pecs and butt, like other gym users.
‘They would not have complained if my tank top had promoted a national heart campaign. They were, in fact, complaining about my being gay.’
During the 15 minute conversation with the gym manager Koh was told he would not be banned if he wore the tank top again, but should be more sensitive to other gym goers.
SAFRA gym told Channel News Asia Koh’s t-shirt did not go against any of the gym’s rules and regulations.
‘We have also spoken to the gym users who gave the feedback. From our conversation with Mr Koh, we believe there was no intent to cause discomfort to other gym goers so we hope this can be resolved amicably,’ said SAFRA.
The tank top that went viral
Koh’s story went viral in Singapore and caught the attention of young LGBTI people.
The poet wrote of his interaction with a young girl on the train who had seen his story.
‘She said very shyly, barely audibly, ‘I’m one of you’,’ he wrote on Facebook.
The young girl then asked him about his coming out experience and he told her that his family took some years to come around, but they did.
‘It has been a long process, with many small steps,’ Koh wrote.
‘The girl had an expression I could not read. We reached our station and, after bidding each other a friendly goodbye, parted. I wish you well, my friend.’
Author: Shannon Power