A female-only spa in Toronto is underfire for what activists are calling a “transphobic” policy that limits use of its facilities to women who have vaginas.
A spa regular, Shelley Marshall, says she called the spa to set up an appointment for her and her transgender friend, but was told that unless her friend had undergone sex reassignment surgery, they weren’t welcome. The spa wouldn’t make an exception even if Marshall’s friend donned a bathing suit.
Another Canadian LGBT activist, Jia Qing Wilson-Yan, also says she was turned away after mentioning that male genitalia weren’t welcome.
The Body Blitz Spa is a luxury “single-sex facility with full nudity” and says that they welcome all women—but that they have to draw the line at those who share physical attributes with the female gender as a whole.
They don’t make mention of it specifically, but it seems the spa is a little wary of the possibility of sexual assault, not by transgender women, but by men who might abuse a more “inclusive” policy.
That’s not acceptable, though, say Toronto’s activists—particularly a York University Gender Studies professor, who says that gender can’t be assigned based on someone’s genitalia alone. There are lots of women with penises, Prof. Sheila Cavanagh says, and they shouldn’t feel unwelcome at single-sex facilities.
“There are many ways of being trans and there are many ways of being a woman,” Cavanaugh noted to the National Post. “What is between our legs is our own business.”
She also claims that “transgender” doesn’t only refer to going from one binary gender to the other. “Transgender” can mean any number of transitions, from single-gender to multi-gender, from single-gender to bi-gender, and from gendered to non-gendered, agendered, or pan-gendered. The binary gender system is woefully outdated.
If customers have a problem with it, well, Cavanaugh says, they’ll just have to be more progressive. It’s unacceptable “that non-trans women will somehow be triggered or made afraid by the presence of a penis.”
Body Blitz Spa seems to be standing its ground, even as activists say they’ll be boycotting the spa until its policies change. That may also be sooner than later: Canada is considering a blanket non-discrimination policy that could eliminate many gender-exclusive spaces by adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” to current anti-discrimination provisions.