Gym owner refused to train trans woman and said ‘post it online for attention’

A woman has claimed she has been targeted by vile trolls after the owner of a gym refused to train her one on one sessions because she’s trans.

Leigh Lyle-Toal, 41, from Belfast, enquired with Industrial Strength Fitness NI in the city about getting some personalised work out sessions to aid in her weight loss journey.

Ms Lyle-Toal claims she was then met with "transphobia" and ridicule from the gym owner, who said he has "issues" about accepting trans clients.

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After enquiring about rates, Leigh messaged the gym's Facebook page to tell them she is trans in a bid to be "upfront".

She then received the response: "Just going to be up front, I would have issues with that so good luck."

Another message quickly followed: "Make sure and post it for attention".

Ms Lyle-Toal, who started transitioning last year, told the Daily Star that after she posted the exchange on her Facebook, the gym owner began 'taunting' by her reacting to her post with laughing face emojis.

"He is happy with his choices," she said. "I didn’t see any point in communicating with him any longer. It wasn’t pleasant

"I did the post so other trans know not to approach them."

She had written on Facebook, alongside the screenshots of her enquiry, saying: "This is why I like to be upfront when contacting businesses. #transphobia."

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Ms Lyle-Toal was then targeted by vile trolls who called her an array of different offensive names.

"It makes you think twice about going to gyms and it can even make you think twice about going to new places and speaking to new people. It promotes negative attitudes towards the trans community," she added.

Asked if she is afraid in general as a trans person, Leigh responded: “Yes”.

The gym owner doubled down on Instagram, sharing screenshots of tweets criticising his move, saying "imagine having a different opinion".

He shared a legal letter on Facebook sent to him by another trans person who said that refusing someone on the grounds of their gender contravenes the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976.

He laughed it off, tagging Ms Lyle-Toal and saying she is "going for as much attention as they can get".

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When contacted by the Daily Star, the gym owner said "my statement is as follows," and then sent two laughing face emojis.

The Daily Star has contacted human rights and community organisations for trans and gender diverse people in Northern Ireland, Transgender NI, for comment.

Harry Matthews, the trans man who served the legal notice to the gym owner, told the Daily Star: "They shared my story saying it’s a matter of opinion – when it actually goes against the equality act 2010 to refuse someone business based on their gender as it’s a protected characteristic.

"Obviously if it was a gender specific gym that would be a different matter, but it's not."

Harry pointed the Star towards a post on the gym owner’s personal Facebook page where he criticised Nike’s decision to employ TikTok personality Dylan Mulvaney to promote their sports bra.

He wrote: “Imagine having a bloke advertise a sports bra. Upside down land.”

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