TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A day after Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage, the expat owner of a popular fitness gym in Taipei posted a controversial image and incendiary text that quickly outraged many Taiwanese and foreigners alike.
On Saturday (May 18), the owner of a popular fitness gym in Taipei's Datong District uploaded the contentious post on Facebook, quickly sparking an uproar online. In an apparent response to the tsunami of criticism that ensued, the fitness club owner took the gym's entire Facebook page offline within 10 minutes.
In the post, apparently alluding to the recent passage of the same-sex marriage law, he writes, "we support traditional marriage, traditional families, and children." In a jab directed at transgender individuals, he writes, "There are also only two genders and there will never be any more than that."
The fitness center owner then boasts that his gym is "free from the gay sex that you find at many gyms in Taiwan." In a message directed to parents, he then closes by saying, "Your kids are 100% safe inside these walls and they always will be."
The cryptic photo included in the post is a rainbow banner with the alt-right symbol "Honkler" emblazoned in the center. Beneath the flag is a cartoon family reminiscent of the 1950s with the daughter wearing a shirt labeled "Lil cis ter," the father labeled "Not gay," the mother wearing a top reading "Don't hate the str8s," and the son sporting a shirt saying "I am a boy."
A screenshot was uploaded onto the social media platform Reddit on Tuesday (May 21) prompting much debate. The gym's Yelp listing soon dropped down to zero stars and the only post visible now states, "The owner of this gym is openly, and proudly, hostile to LGBT people. He says allowing LGBT people to use his gym would be a danger to children."
Similarly, the gym's Google listing has suddenly seen a surge of one-star ratings and many negative comments such as: "Please do not support an owner who stereotypes and makes assumptions about a whole group of people."
Screenshot of gym owner's Facebook post.
On Wednesday (May 22), the fitness center owner issued a public statement on the derelict expat message board Forumosa in which he was unapologetic and expanded on his rationale for his original post. In the statement, he claimed that the fitness industry is aimed at homosexuals and claimed that "Taiwanese think gyms are nothing more than gay bars."
He claimed that a Google search in Chinese for homosexuality and the name of the most popular gym would yield nearly "1 million hits in Taiwan alone." He then claimed to have knowledge of sex taking place in the men's rooms of "mainstream gyms."
The owner said he was "speaking up" for "a ton of hetero people both male and female are being harassed, flashed, etc..." He reiterated from his previous post that this is a "family business" and his children frequent the gym.
Instead of mentioning an instance in which this occurred in his gym, he described an incident in which he was pushing his toddler in a stroller on the streets of Taipei when they came upon a gay pride parade. He said that what he saw that day "sickened me."
He claimed that there are gyms "where flashing people, harassing them, and people having sex in bathrooms stalls" is allowed because "calling this stuff out is politically incorrect." The fitness center owner then closed by claiming that his facility and its members would "100% be protected from that kind of nonsense."
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Pepe the Frog was co-opted by white nationalists and the alt-right movement, and has since been removed from certain websites and been disowned by its creator Matt Furie as it has become a symbol of hate. The clown version of Pepe the Frog is known as "Honkler" (Honk + Hitler) and has become the symbol of "clown world" which is the far right's characterization of what they believe to be the collapse of the world order due to liberalism, feminism, immigrants, and LGBT community, among other targeted groups.
The owner of the gym declined a request by Taiwan News to make a comment on his controversial Facebook post.