Trans woman who was refused waxing services kicks off identity wars online

Beth Greenfield
Senior Editor
Jessica Yaniv has filed complaints against the Canadian salons refusing her waxing and other services. (Photo: Jessica Yaniv/Twitter)

A transgender woman has claimed that more than a dozen salons refused her service because of her gender identity, including at least one that would not provide her with a Brazilian wax job after making the assumption that she has male genitalia. But, says Jessica Yaniv, of Vancouver, B.C., in Canada, her human rights complaint goes beyond the simple issue of waxing and physical anatomy.

“I’ve been refused for manicures, pedicures, head massages, facials…an arm waxing,” Yaniv, 32, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, outlining responses that range from insults to questions about her mental stability. “It’s like, where does this end? Everyone thinks this is about waxing and genitals, and it isn’t true.”

Still, it’s that part of Yaniv’s official complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that has kicked up a slew of salacious headlines and angry editorials and tweets this week, all focused on Yaniv seemingly intent on having women estheticians in home-based salons wax her male genitalia, with many devolving into accusations that she is “perverted” and a “predator” and insisting, “you are a man.”

“Does inclusivity mean the Canadian state should compel women to handle a penis?” asks Meghan Murphy in a Spectator USA opinion piece.

Murphy, the editor of Feminist Current, continues, “Under normal circumstances, we might assume any sane person would laugh at the idea of a man attempting to bring over a dozen women to a Human Rights Tribunal because they didn’t want to touch his genitals. But we are not living under normal circumstances. We are living in a brand new world, wherein men are women the moment they say so, no matter what material reality exists.”

Some did jump to Yaniv’s defense, though.

Yaniv first filed her complaint with the Tribunal — which resolves cases of discrimination in accordance with the B.C. human rights code — in 2018. But the case has gotten renewed attention this week, when the Tribunal released Yaniv’s identity after originally ordering it be kept out of the Canadian press, according to the National Post. The revelation provided fresh fodder for those who had been watching the case, particularly for those who believe that the notion of gender identity has run amok.

But Yaniv says her transition has been well-thought-out and monitored, and that it’s taken her “months” to go through the process and change her license and vital statistics, and that “the hardest thing of all is hormone replacement therapy,” which she started “a long time ago.”

Yaniv filed her complaints in an attempt to seek justice in what she sees as anti-transgender discrimination. “I’m not suing anyone,” she clarifies. “I could have, but I decided to make it less legal and less drama, with this less formal process than going to court and standing before a judge.”

To try and book her appointments, Yaniv says she mostly used Facebook’s Marketplace app, and that she was upfront about disclosing her transgender status in each case. “That’s when they refused service,” she says. In at least one other interaction, Yaniv explains, she was treated poorly over the phone — such as when she called a different salon to inquire about the price of a Brazilian waxing, and was asked, presumably because of her masculine voice, “Are you mentally sick?” before being hung up on, according to an audio recording that Yaniv shared with Yahoo Lifestyle.

When asked if she believes it’s acceptable for an esthetician to refuse her service because of a discomfort with male genitalia, Yaniv says, “It is OK, but it all depends how. If they were to put this forward respectfully and not in a bigoted way then I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

The Brazilian waxing request at the heart of the complaint was refused by Marcia DaSilva, the owner of a home-based salon that has since reportedly been forced to close. According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is representing many of the salons before the Tribunal, DaSilva, like many of the other estheticians, was not comfortable performing such a service on a person with male genitalia.

At a recent Tribunal hearing, at which Yaniv represented herself, DaSilva’s lawyer Jay Cameron noted that a ruling against DaSilva would be like ordering “intimate services” against her will, according to the National Post. Justice Centre president John Carpay told the Daily Caller that the women Yaniv has filed complaints against are mostly poor immigrants for whom English is a second language. Further, he added, the women have said they are not qualified to perform a Brazilian wax on male genitalia, as it requires a different skill set than for female genitalia.

Hair removal for trans women who have kept their male genitalia can indeed be a tricky situation. Idaho-based chain LunchboxWax, meanwhile, makes a point of marketing to the transgender community, according to the Advocate, by taking recent steps such as “eliminating male/female gender checkboxes… and instead [asking] clients their preferred pronouns,” the story noted.

"There’s no reason a waxologist needs to know if you identify as male or female,” LunchboxWax founder Debi Lane told the publication. “If there are special considerations regarding sex anatomy, there’s another way to ask that. We need to know this simply because it takes more time. This is about waxing a body part, not a gender.”

Kae Mason, who has owned the trans-inclusive Aveda Salon K in Concord, New Hampshire, for a decade, tends to agree. “When we do wax transgender guests, we try not to really think about what they are,” Mason, who is trans, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Our estheticians are pretty sensitive to people’s needs,” she says.

Male clients wanting a Brazilian would be turned away, Mason says. “That’s just a choice. It’s a little intimidating for some of the women to have to deal with guys,” she explains, adding that, with trans women who do have male genitalia, it is different. “I think it’s a mindset,” she explains, adding that her employees understand when “a transgender girl feels wronged by her genitalia parts,” and that they “have a connection with those who are coming in to clean an area that bothers them.”

Still, says Mason, “I don’t believe an employee should be made to wax the opposite sex. If you’re not comfortable, then you shouldn’t have to do it.”

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