A gay man was left “humiliated” after taking a Tom of Finland bag to a gym in Adelaide, South Australia, only to receive complaints from pearl-clutching gym-goers.
Jeff Trahair explained to the Star Observer, a decades-old LGBT+ news outlet, how he fashioned a bag made out of a shower curtain covered in the buff, gritty graphite prints by the Finnish illustrator.
But while the illustrations themselves were “very PG”, Trahair said, ARC Campbelltown managers deemed the bag “inappropriate” for children and spurred what he called a “vigilante witch hunt” earlier this month.
The backlash against his back became too much for Trahair, who ultimately buckled and cancelled his gym membership.
“Feel utterly harassed and bullied, and can definitely live without that,” he said.
“The images are not explicit sexual ones at all! They are all very PG and good fun.
“I have used the bag for years in all Adelaide pools and never experienced anything like this. In fact, quite the opposite – people usually comment positively.”
Gay man ‘stigmatized’ by gym for Tom of Finland bag
For days, Trahair shrugged off emails from ARC Campbelltown staff that claimed they had “received feedback from patrons that some of the attire that you have been wearing whilst in the pool area is not very child friendly”.
Another email, dated 1 April, urged him not to no longer use the bag. “For example, I have personally seen your bag which has a graphic image of males on it as well as a broach of male genitalia,” they wrote.
“I now feel very unwelcome and stigmatized attending the ARC,” Trahair said.
“It appears to me that the processes you have used have been covert, amounting to not much more than the compiling of a secret dossier about me by a highly opinionated vigilante witch hunt.”
In a statement to the Star Observer, ARC Campbelltown management confirmed there had been “a number complaints received from members of the public and staff”.
“Mr Trahair was contacted and requested to refrain from wearing and displaying items that were considered by the complainants, and following an investigation by management, as inappropriate.
“Mr Trahair responded to and argued against this request and chose to cancel his membership.”
Tom of Finland, real name Touko Laaksonen, transformed depictions of queer eroticism with his intense, masculine style of drawing usually well-endowed, leather-clad men.
There were many moustached men – truck drivers, beefcake cops, bulging bikers, pilots, loggers and farmers – that he drew while working a day job at an advertising agency.
His sexualised, subversive style went onto influence an entire generation – and many more to come – of queer men, such as Freddie Mercury, as prints were bought in underground sex-shops and leather bars.