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The Equinox Dilemma: Should I Stay or Should I Go?


John Casey worries about punishing the LGBTQ and allied employees who may suffer because of their owner's terrible judgment.

I love my gym. More specifically, I love the people who work at my gym. The trainers are some of my best friends -- one of them actually is. The management team is exceptional. Our custodian is beyond hard-working, and the front desk team laughs with me every morning. I love them all, except one of the owners.

Equinox 50th Street in Manhattan is my second home. Unfortunately, news comes that the owner of the franchise (the company says he's a "passive investor"), Stephen Ross, is holding a fundraiser for Donald Trump later this week. The announcement, rightly or wrongly, has caused more noise among members than dropped dumbbells and overzealous Zumba instructors. My gym, and many of the city's Equinox clubs, have a significant number of LGBTQ members and employees, and we are all for the most part flummoxed -- do we follow what we know or do we flee with our fee?

Equinox sexually styles itself as a way of life. "Equinox Made Me Do It" and "It's Not Fitness, It's Life" are notorious slogans backed up with homoerotic images. The club highlights its gay and transgender trainers, eagerly rolls out the rainbows for Pride, and supports LGBTQ causes like House Lives Matter. It is almost too well known for being gay-friendly. In fact, I've heard several people say, "It's too gay for me."

Which is precisely why I won't be cancelling my membership. Equinox is not about a 79-year-old outside owner. I abhor hate and divisiveness and recognize Ross as something antithetical to the Equinox brand. If anyone would muscle against bigotry, racism and hate, it would most likely be all my straight male trainer friends, and my best friend, all of whom love their LGBTQ clientele.

Those abruptly pulling the plug are underestimating the love and support from Equinox and its staff over the years, and are now out to ruin them because of Ross. On the other side, some are saying that those who wish to stay are overcompensating for Equinox because we like our gyms too much to leave. Well, that's much too reductive -- we have relationships to people there, some of which we can't sever because of a billionaire none of us have met.

As members, we know that the company is not one single person, but a collection of individuals. By saying goodbye, we are turning our backs and jeopardizing the careers of all those who have rooted for us. We will leave these people, perhaps without jobs and with membership lists that likely only leave Trump supporters (shudder). Let's work to oust Trump at the ballot box as hard as we can, and in the meantime, help keep Equinox "too gay."

John Casey is head of PR for a worldwide digital consultancy, and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City. As a contributing columnist his articles have appeared in The New York Daily News, Pittsburgh Magazine, The Advocate, Ladders, and IndieWire.

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