Controversy over a female-only spa's "no male genitals" policy has reignited debate over the rights of transgender people to access traditionally gender-exclusive spaces, even as the federal government pushes stronger protections prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
The uproar over Toronto's Body Blitz Spa prompted a flurry of complaints on social media, with longtime regular Shelley Marshall among those vowing to boycott the luxurious retreat.
Marshall says she tried to bring her transgender friend to the spa last year but was told she would only be welcome at the bathing suit-optional facility if she had undergone sex reassignment surgery.
"I didn't want to embarrass my friend, I didn't want to humiliate my friend, I didn't want all this to happen," Marshall says of not speaking out at the time. "I'm embarrassed I never stuck up for my friend."
Toronto-based LGBTQ author Jia Qing Wilson-Yang tweeted last week that she was told not to visit the spa because they "won't allow male genitalia." That followed a Facebook post by Weronika Jane who says the spa's manager called a friend one hour before their booking "to say that they couldn't come because they had a 'no male genital rule.'"
On Wednesday, "Orphan Black" star Tatiana Maslany added her voice to the protest, tweeting that until the spa "changes its policies and is an inclusive space for all women, I'll no longer be going." The Regina-born actress plays a slew of characters on her Space series, including lesbian and transgender characters.
Body Blitz refused to comment on the issue, but released a statement insisting it supports the LGBTQ community.
"However, because Body Blitz Spa is a single-sex facility with full nudity, we are not like other facilities. We recognize that this is an important discussion for single-sex facilities to have and we will seek to find a satisfactory resolution," reads the statement.
Some people found the position comforting. "Thank you for standing up for women. Private spaces for naked female bodies. Identity irrelevant," said one social media supporter, signed Rachel Ralison.
But the whole flap has been disappointing to client and York University Prof. Sheila Cavanagh, who specializes in gender and sexuality studies. Read more via Ottawa Citizen