Toronto women's spa ‘male genitalia’ policy spurs social media backlash
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Monday, June 12, 2017 5:58PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 12, 2017 7:15PM EDT
A popular downtown Toronto spa created a stir on social media after staff denied a trans woman from using their facilities due to a no “male genitalia” policy.
Weronika Jane wrote in a public Facebook post Friday that her friend’s appointment at the spa was cancelled at the last minute due to the alleged policy.
“They claimed to be trans positive then the manager called my friend (one hour before their booking) to say that they couldn’t come because they had a ‘no (male) genital rule,’” Jane wrote on Facebook. “Awful just writing that. I would say call, post tweet, whatever else you can do to complain!”
Meanwhile, Jia Qing Wilson-Yang tweeted Friday that she was told “not to come” to Body Blitz Spa because they “won’t allow male genitalia.”
Wilson-Yang is a Toronto-based author known for her transgender narrative novel “Small Beauty,” which was awarded the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers last year.
The social media posts spurred a wave of backlash against Body Blitz, which touts itself as a “women’s only spa.”
Many took their distain to the Facebook page belonging to Body Blitz’s 471 Adaleaide Street West location, flooding the page with scathing reviews.
“Really disappointed to hear Body Blitz excludes trans women. I’ve been several times with friends who love to gift part of a ‘water card’ to celebrate events or just on a regular evening,” Angela Kostenko said in a review.
“These friends are trans allies! None of us will be returning until the policy is changed!”
“Big fan of Body Blitz, but I won’t be returning until policies which discriminate against trans women are lifted,” Mish Waraksa wrote in a review on the page. “Very disappointed and hope with new policies, Body Blitz will release a statement of apology for contributing to the alienation of these women as well as reaching out to organizations who can provide sensitivity training to Body Blitz staff.”
On Sunday morning, Body Blitz did just that.
In a public post on their page – now riddled with negative reviews -- a spokesperson for Body Blitz Spa said that their aim is to make sure all clients are “comfortable.”
“Because we are a bathing suit optional environment, our current policy is to ensure all clients, are comfortable in an environment with nudity, including minors,” the comment reads. “We acknowledge, respect, and admire all the myriad ways that women’s bodies and gender are expressed. The owners have advised management that they will be working with a civil rights professional over the summer to help us with a clear and fair policy.”
Despite this, many reviewers said the acknowledgement of the incident was too little, too late.
“This space should be open to trans women. Using the reasoning that they want everyone to be comfortable in the space being naked is ridiculous, as it implies that someone being uncomfortable with someone else’s body is reason enough to ban that body type from the space,” Amanda Spakowski wrote in a review.
“This is ridiculous and is far behind the times.”
Rachel Duffy, the spa’s corporate affairs coordinator, told CP24 in an emailed statement Monday that Body Blitz Spa is a “single-sex facility.”
“We support the LGBTQ community and recognize that this is a sensitive issue,” Duffy said. “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.”
CTV News Toronto tried to contact Jia Qing Wilson-Yang for comment Monday without success.
Spa's policy questioned in the past
Shelley Marshall, who runs a mental wellness drop-in centre in the city, told CTV News Toronto on Monday that she had a similar experience when she tried to book an appointment at Body Blitz for a transgender friend.
Marshall said she's been a member at Body Blitz Spa’s King Street East location for nearly two years and called it a "wonderful facility."
Last year, when her transgender friend bought a new bathing suit, Marshall said she booked a spa date for the two of them.
“She got a beautiful bathing suit, she was describing it online, how it had a skirt and I thought, 'Well wouldn’t it be beautiful to bring her to the spa for the day and celebrate this moment with her,'” she said.
But, when Marshall asked about the spa's policies surrounding transgender clients, she said she was taken aback by an employee’s response.
“One of the girls who works behind the counter – my sense is I don’t believe the manager taught her to say what she said to me – but she whispered, ‘Our policy is, as long as this is gone, then they can come in,’” Marshall said.
“I couldn’t go back to my friend and say you can’t come,” she added.
After learning of Wilson-Yang's experience, Marshall says that she has asked for a refund for her upcoming treatments.
“I can’t go back … I cannot condone this ridiculous response from them."
With files from Amara McLaughlin