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Virginia

Transgender woman says she was kicked out of spa because ‘she looked different’

Friday, March 1, 2013

CENTREVILLE, Va. — A California transgender woman alleges that, while on a business trip last year, she was asked to leave a suburban Washington D.C. spa because the manager told her “she looked different.”

Riya Suising, a Chinese-American transgender female and businesswoman from Palo Alto, Calif., said she was told by the manager at Spa World in Centreville, Va., that five other customers had lodged complaints about her presence.

Suising said she is very tall and muscular and has very broad shoulders, which may distinguish her from natural-born females, but that otherwise her gender presentation is very feminine.

“None of the complaints, as they were described to me, referenced my genitalia in any way,” she said. “I can’t believe that they would discriminate based on physical appearance. I was not doing anything but keeping to myself.”

Suising, a California licensed massage and acupressure therapist, said that after she received a refund and left the spa, she filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Fairfax County, Va., where the spa is located.

After the Better Business Bureau opened an investigation, Spa World’s owner, Sang K. Lee, responded on Jan. 28 to the BBB in writing, stating: “It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s),” reported the Fairfax Times.

Spa World’s written reply said its policy is for the “safety and the comfort of young children” who use facility.

Riya Suising

“In California, this would be illegal,” said Suising. “I am not sure exactly what the state of LGBT equality is in Virginia, but I hope it is more progressive than this.”

James Lee, a manager on duty at Spa World, told LGBTQ Nation on Friday that the incident was a result of misunderstanding and a language problem.

“The Korean-English barrier just made a small miscommunication, Mr. [Sang] Lee meant to write only that sexual activity, either gay or straight, is not allowed at Spa World,” said Lee. “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.”

He did acknowledge that a transgender woman using Spa World’s bathing and changing facilities doesn’t violate the spa’s policy, however, but that Suising “caught us all off-guard,” he said.

Lee said that the business will welcome and allow customers of any sexual orientation or gender identity, and that in the future, transgender customers will not be asked to leave.

Suising said she is not seeking any financial compensation and does not plan to file any legal actions against the spa, but said she would like an apology, and wants people to know that what happened to her is a form of discrimination that needs to be addressed nationwide.

“I too, think it is correct to prohibit ‘abnormal sexual behavior’ in a public place, but a transgender person just being there, behaving appropriately like any other customer should not count as such,” she said.

There are no provisions in Virginia or Fairfax County’s codes that protects against gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination.

Under the state’s “Dillon Rule,” local municipalities are prohibited from enacting measures such as a non-discrimination ordinances without prior permission from the Va. state government.

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29 more reader comments:

  1. this is sad , i went to a salon today and got my hair done and such and i live in a very “redneck” town miss carrie treated me with the most respect and acted as if she had known me forever …. very sad allot of people are still closed minded my heart and prayers to you sweetie<3

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:32pm
  2. So, was there something wrong about how her “money” looked? How ridiculous! I hope she tells everyone she knows. This spa needs to be out of business!

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:45pm
  3. I wouldve sued the place just for IGNORANCE or just for the hell of it. I swear, these straight folks come up with any fucking excuse….

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:46pm
  4. >abnormal sexual orientation
    >transgender

    pick one.

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:48pm
  5. Well at least they have come to civilized agreement. :)

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:51pm
  6. Read further Tallyn

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:52pm
  7. Please read further everyone who posts!

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:52pm
  8. Frankly, I don’t believe their “off guard” response. They weren’t off guard. They had multiple bigoted customers vs. one tourist who had no discrimination protections in the location she was at, and figured she’d just go away quietly and they’d get to keep their bigoted customers’ money. They deserve any fallout they get.

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:03pm
  9. what a media nightmare. they need to fire whoever wrote the response to the BBB because their wording does not match what is physically being said. I’d like to give this spa the benefit of the doubt but there appears to be some miscomunication from within to add to the language barrier the representative mentioned.

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:04pm
  10. I read the whole thing. I’m just tired of the T being equated to sexual orientation all the time.

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:24pm
  11. Really, she is quite beautiful.

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:29pm
  12. “It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s),”

    That sounds pretty direct to me. Where does the later stated misunderstanding and language problem come in?

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 8:37pm
  13. Yeah… agreed^

    Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 8:48pm
  14. Soon, businesses like this will be a part of the past…and deservedly so….there was no barrier in language…it was clear the meaning and the “explanation” after the fact is just not good enough…I don’t live in Virginia….and will never live there…but if I did..I’d make sure I never walked through the doors of this spa..No wonder why VA is lumped in with the bigots of the southern states as one having to be overseen by the feds to make sure it does not discriminate against minority voting..disgraceful VA…Just Disgraceful. I live in Utah and I have NEVER heard of anything like this happening here…..if someone is LGBTQ….they may get a strange look or something but never would they be asked to leave unless they were being sexually explicit….

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:22am
  15. A Damn Shame.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:34pm
  16. geesh people.. who cares if someone is different.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:35pm
  17. next we will have water fountains, bathrooms, pools, and spas with signs like staight looking people only.. LGBT access in back of building..sounds kinda familiar..hmmmm

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:38pm
  18. I think she looks stunning

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:41pm
  19. I guess that spa HATES money…. O.o

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:41pm
  20. :(

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:45pm
  21. Wow – If I lived in the area I’d never go to that spa again.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 7:11pm
  22. SUE THE HOLY HECK OUT OF THEM AND DONATE THE MONEY TO TRANSGENDER SUPPORT GROUPS!!……:D

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 7:17pm
  23. I smell a lawsuit – @Cary – I agree wholeheartedly

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 7:43pm
  24. So I guess mess with people that are gay was starting to become boring so now people are picking on those that are transgender. Smh. People disgust me sometimes.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:09pm
  25. U know what? Someone asked me stupid question, “Are u a man or woman”. I’m not a transgender, I’m gay guy who dress up trendy clothes and fashion eyeglasses. Someone mistaken me for look a like transgender or lesbian. And yeah, I’m a thin too, can’t get too muscular body or I can’t gain over 200 pound (Someone said oh, why are u thinning,obivously someone is jealous of me as thin, not too skin just normal thin) Thats reason why I can’t gain too much weight it’s because of my f**king health. That people who are what I called “STUPID IGNORANT”.

    Be educated, You dont judge someone without her or his life, you might not know that he or she has a cancer!.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 10:10pm
  26. And gay AD like that, “NO FEMMES OR NO SISSIES”….”Please be masculine or macho plus you must have big and muscular body, drop me a line if that is you”. Yeah a lot gay guys wants big, masculjne, tall, muscular.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 10:12pm
  27. She’s gorgeous! They must also be racist because she looks like a foreign national. What excuse for a spa does something like that?

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 11:59pm
  28. I just wish the judgment would stop!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 12:20pm
  29. The only way people like that own learn is through their wallets. A fine of some kind is necessary!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:44pm