Protecting a gay man at the gym

Let’s have a quick chat about a gay man who was being harassed at one of the many gyms where I workout at. So I work with many different gym locations, for many different gym franchises and at any given point there could be a homophobic jerk there. This was one of those cases.

I was asked if I was willing to make sure that a member was safe after he asked to share some equipment and the offending member replied with “Get the fuck away from me.” This aggression frightened the gay man who’s rather slight of build and small in stature. He said that the guy was a big muscle head and he felt very threatened by his response and the way he glared at him.

I don’t like hearing things like that so I agreed to escort him back to the weight lifting area to make sure that the bully didn’t do anything to him. Once we got there and the bully saw he wasn’t alone anymore, he bowed his head and eventually disappeared. I showed him how to use some other equipment and just made my presence known as an indicator to the bully that we weren’t having that type of behavior here. I saw no need to step up to the guy, and I wasn’t looking to escalate things into a verbal or physical confrontation. My objective was to protect and defend if further necessary, not to be an aggressor.

I don’t work at any gym in the capacity of security or management. I’m an exercise instructor and have no power over member’s status. Also, I’m not looking to start any fights or escalating situations. However, if someone feels unsafe, I’m willing to help them as a human being. That’s the point I’m trying to make here, I’m helping a fellow human being as a fellow human being, not because it is my job or my personal responsibility to protect anyone, but because I hate fucking bullies and I don’t like that kind of bad behavior. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go and start a fight over what he said.

I felt that just being there was enough to stop any further escalation, and it was because the perpetrator left the scene when I showed up. Had the bully said something in front of me or further attacked the man while I was there, then I’d take it upon myself to speak up for him and defend him more aggressively. But I’m not going to be the one to start a fight.

All that being said, the man’s partner was not satisfied with my gesture of kindness. In fact, he was angry and came over to me insisting that I go and confront the person who insulted his partner. You need to go over there and tell him that this behavior is not acceptable and call the cops and kick him out of the gym. Do your job, this is not acceptable!

Now I felt annoyed. So uhm, actually, no. I don’t need to do anything. I’m a group fitness instructor who helped a guy I felt needed some support. It’s not my job, it’s not my responsibility and you have no right to come over and berate me for not being “aggressive enough” and escalating an already dangerous situation. If you want to scream at the guy, you go over, find him, and you scream at him. If you want to involve the cops, pick up the cell phone in your hands and you call the cops. I’m just there helping and now you are taking your anger out on me? Yeah, that’s not gonna work.

At that point I told the dude I helped to have a good day and I said goodbye to the front desk staff. I wasn’t going to stand there and continue taking abuse from this other man. I’m all for doing the right thing and helping people out, as should be evident by my gesture here. However, being a nice guy sometimes bites you in the butt. I think that this guy attacking me this way is a clear example of that and I think he was way out of line. I understood his anger and frustration, but I wasn’t going to let him continue berating me like that.

We live in a society where we are all supposedly equal, and I shouldn’t have to protect a human from another under any circumstances, right? But, we don’t live in an ideal world, and there are bad people out there. This is our reality. So people like us will continue to do our best to help when we can, it’s who we are and what we do. I guess that’s just how it’s gonna be until the day comes where this man can walk without feeling threatened.

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