Tauranga gym apologises after personal trainer uses transphobic slur in message to queer rights advocate Shaneel Lal

Shaneel Lal said the message was a derogatory slur used to humiliate and insult them.
Shaneel Lal said the message was a derogatory slur used to humiliate and insult them. Photo credit: Supplied

A Tauranga gym has apologised after one of its personal trainers used a transphobic slur in an Instagram exchange with queer rights advocate Shaneel Lal.

Lal shared a post on their Instagram story following messages they received from ex-students of Bethlehem College pointing to conversion therapy practices.

After Lal shared the story on Saturday, personal trainer at Snap Fitness Tauranga Cheyenne Weston replied to Lal's story asking:  "Do you have a life?".

"Asks a 'personal trainer,'" Lal replied, to which Weston responded, "asks a 'tranny'".

Lal told Newshub the word "tranny" was a derogatory slur used "to humiliate me and insult me" and is often the last word that transgender people hear before being attacked or killed.

"This person just thinks it is a joke."

The advocate said Weston claimed she didn't know the meaning of "tranny" in a message to them.

Lal shared screenshots of their interaction on Twitter which saw large public support for them.

"This is disgusting behaviour for a person, not less a personal trainer… @SnapFitnessNZ do better," one person said.

Many have left negative Google reviews for Snap Fitness pointing to Weston's transphobic message.

Dunedin bar owner and musician Dudley Benson messaged Snap Fitness outlining his disappointment and disgust in Weston's comments, to which the gym replied "a line has been crossed".

"Her view does not represent the business but since she works in the facility, yes I agree she is representative of the business.

"We have people from the gay community in our facility and have always made them feel as welcome as anyone else," they said.

"I am shocked to see this behaviour and we do apologise."

Weston shared a statement on her Instagram following her message to Lal and said she "never meant to diss the rainbow community".

"My intentions weren't to offend anyone, however that may have been perceived.

"That doesn't mean my comment was fair or reasonable, however, neither is hate messages, abuse and a targeted attack of words directed towards myself," she said.

"Every one of us has a part to play in encouraging one another in acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them in assertive ways,"  Weston added.

Weston told Newshub she has gone to Netsafe over a "targeted attack of words" directed at her since Lal shared the screenshots of their conversation to Twitter.

"This matter has been referred to Netsafe with intention to seek orders from the District Court under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) and as such it would not be appropriate to comment further."

Lal said if people don't want to be held accountable for being transphobic, "don't be transphobic".

Newshub has approached Snap Fitness for comment.