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VIDEO: Abbotsford woman berated at gym for working out in women’s only section

Parneet Khangura told by fellow patron to leave female section of Abbotsford gym despite being woman

What started off as a New Year’s resolution transformed into a shouting match, misgendering and a woman kicked out of the She’s Fit section of Abbotsford’s Trevor Linden Fitness on Jan. 15.

Parneet Khangura, 22, of Abbotsford told The News that she wanted to start off 2024 on a brand new fitness journey to try to stay healthy.

Part of the reason she signed up at Trevor Linden was because of the She’s Fit women’s-only section of the gym. Khangura said she identifies as a woman, but prefers wearing what is considered typical men’s-style clothing. She regularly wears baggy clothes, unisex T-shirts and hats.

She said she arrived to the Abbotsford location on Jan. 15 and began using the treadmill. It was perfectly normal for the first 15 to 20 minutes, but then she noticed a woman to her right staring intently at her.

“There was one treadmill between us but she was staring right at me,” Khangura said. “I didn’t look at her once, but I could tell she was there from my peripheral vision. Later on she began standing right behind my treadmill and I noticed that because it was dark outside so I could see her reflection in the window.”

Khangura said she decided to ignore it and wondered if maybe she was overreacting. She said she suffers from social anxiety and thought maybe her mind was creating something that wasn’t there.

She got off the machine a few moments later, and the woman approached Khangura. She initially thought the woman wanted to use the machine she was exercising on.

“I stopped working out and she was beside me and then she started saying to me that this is not a man’s section,” she said. “She said, ‘You are a man and you need to get out of here. You don’t belong here.’”

Khangura said she was stunned that a grown woman would speak to a fellow patron in that way. She said she almost didn’t believe the words that were coming out of her mouth.

“I was super self-conscious because of my social anxiety and it felt like everyone was looking at me as she was yelling at me,” she said.

Khangura tried to tell the woman that she was not a man, but the woman was refusing to believe her. Khangura then decided to leave the gym entirely as she felt uncomfortable. The woman continued to berate her as she was leaving.

“On my way out she told me, ‘If you come back here again, then this will happen to you again,’ ” hinting that more confrontations will occur if Khangura returns to the She’s Fit section.

Khangura informed the front desk of the harassment and began filming the encounter with her cellphone. The woman proceeded to get into a shouting match with staff about Khangura being in the gym. She insisted that Khangura is not a female.

“I come in here because I want to be with women, I don’t want to see ugly men,” the woman stated to staff while she pointed at Khangura.

The staff member in the video mentioned that the woman had also been racist to other members and they had received other complaints about her behaviour. The woman was eventually asked to leave the gym.

Khangura said the woman’s behaviour was shocking and now she doesn’t feel comfortable returning to the gym.

“I can understand her point that she might have confused me for a man because I do present myself in a masculine way,” she said.

“But the way she came up to me about this was totally wrong. She claimed that I was a man, even though I’m not. And I think she should have stopped when I said that I’m not a man. She wouldn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t a man.”

Khangura said police were called to the gym following the incident, but she has not heard about any followup.

Carl Ulmer, the managing partner and chief operating officer for L & L Signature Fitness Group, which runs the gym, stated that they were made aware of the incident and were pleased with how staff responded.

“These situations can be quite challenging and we take pride in our staff’s dedication in this incident to maintaining a compassionate atmosphere and adhering to our established policies,” he said. “We empathize with our member who was the recipient of this unacceptable communication.”

He added that they do not tolerate inappropriate and intimidating communication within their facilities.

“It is important for us to emphasize that our dress code only mandates fitness attire throughout all areas of our facilities, without regard to orientation, culture, or personal preference,” he stated.

Ulmer said the incident rocked the team at Trevor Linden Fitness, but he is satisfied with how they dealt with it. He said his team always responds swiftly to these types of rare incidents to ensure all gym users can work out in a location that is non-intimidating.

Khangura questioned why the woman was allowed to continue to exercise there despite complaints from other members that she was racist towards them. She has not returned to the Abbotsford location since the incident.

She did hear from a representative from Trevor Linden Fitness, who apologized for what occurred and she was also offered complimentary training sessions.

“I am afraid when people look at me they might have similar thoughts so it makes me a little self-conscious,” she said.

She added that this entire incident should make people think before assuming things about others.

“I do not identify as trans (gender) but it makes me think about people who do identify as that or as non-binary,” she said.

“And how they don’t have their own designated spaces and how unsafe it can be for them, especially if they do not want to go through any surgical changes to change their appearance. Or if they are transitioning, you’re not always going to fit in one box.”

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Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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