Words On Tank Top Too “Sensitive” For The Gym?
New York-based author Koh Jee Leong has only visited the gym at SAFRA Mount Faber 4 times, but he’s already received flak from fellow gym users on his gym attire.
Was it indecent? No, it’s because of the words on the tank top that he wears:
Not All Tank Tops Are Equal
As Mr Koh related in a post on his Facebook profile on Thursday (July 13) morning, he was informed by the manager at the SAFRA Mount Faber Club Gym that “some” gym users had complained about the message on the tank top, which says “Gay But Not Yet Equal” in front and “Equality For All” on the reverse.
It alludes to the fact that gay people and their relationships are not seen as equal, due to restrictions under the law in certain countries (including Singapore) that criminalise sex between men. There are also no laws that allow gay marriage in many countries.
Here’s Mr Koh’s post:
Uncomfortable Social Issue
The reason for the complaints, according to the gym manager, was that this was a “social issue” that was sensitive nationally, and SAFRA could not allow “social advocacy”.
When Mr Koh sought clarification on the number of complainants, the gym manager politely admitted that there was “more than one but not many”.
The gym manager added that he had to take into account this “subjective” feedback, even if the majority of users may not have any issue with the tank top, as it is his job to mediate between the two parties.
The manager then asked to be “sensitive” to these users, but still allowed Mr Koh to use the gym.
To their credit, the gym staff were described by Mr Koh as “courteous and reasonable”, but unsurprisingly, he was rattled by the incident, and said that his hand was shaking while holding his phone.
However, in his post, he denied trying to change any social policy, maintaining that his tank top was “specially designed by a New York designer” and did not even refer to Singapore at all.
He also made a good point by suggesting that the gym users who complained weren’t objecting to social advocacy per se, as he did not think they would have complained if his tank top had promoted a national heart campaign — another less sensitive example of social advocacy.
Thus, he believed the complainants took issue not with the apparent social advocacy, but with the fact that the tank top mentioned a gay issue — and referred to Mr Koh himself as gay. He’s now afraid that whoever complained about him won’t stop, and will take the issue to higher authorities.
He also felt that should he be barred from the gym due to his tank top, or the fact that he is gay, it would be an “injustice”, given that the SAFRA gym is for NSmen and that he completed his NS liabilities in Singapore, even attaining the rank of captain as an infantry company commander.
He also pointed out that even gay men have to serve national service in Singapore and “it is wrong to deny these gay servicemen, self-declared or otherwise, any of the benefits afterwards”, e.g. access to SAFRA facilities.
Mr Koh also extended the same analogy to wearing that tank top in public in Singapore. Would he subject to similarly ludicrous complaints to the police?
Those who saw Mr Koh extended words of support.
Don’t Hide The Facts
Considering how some people could see fit to complain and make police reports over the Pink Dot advertisement in Cathay Cineleisure, and are even sensitive enough to deem rainbow cakes as promoting “the gay agenda”, we can’t say we are surprised that people would make a fuss over a tank top.
They may not like the fact that Mr Koh’s tank top emphasises that gay people are not equal, but we think it’s just stating the facts.
And as for the message behind, we’re sure that even the most hardened conservatives wouldn’t object to the principle that every Singaporean must be treated equally.
Besides, even if Mr Koh wasn’t to change any social policy, we think he has a right as a citizen to engage in social advocacy, even in the SAFRA gym.
If we see the need to hide facts and universal messages, then we should be ashamed to call ourselves a free and democratic nation.