British Columbia

Transgender woman testifies at human rights tribunal after being refused Brazilian wax

A transgender woman testified before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Friday complaining that she was refused Brazilian waxes because she is transgender. Protesters and supporters clashed outside the room as the proceedings unfolded.

Jessica Yaniv says she was rejected by more than a dozen B.C. beauty salons

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found last year that Jessica Yaniv had not been discriminated against by estheticians who refused her waxing services. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A transgender woman testified before the B.C. Human Rights tribunal Friday complaining that she was refused Brazilian waxes at more than a dozen beauty salons because she is transgender.

Jessica Yaniv says she's been repeatedly refused waxing services since 2018. For the past several months, the tribunal has been conducting hearings into the complaints against each of the waxing salons and independent estheticians.

"None of these providers had any issue with anything until I mentioned I was transgender. Why was it not brought up saying, 'Hey we don't do services on male genitalia'?"

Yaniv, who identifies as female but has male genitalia, contacted the businesses through Facebook messages requesting to book an appointment for waxing services including a Brazilian wax which removes most or all pubic hair.

She says many of the estheticians advertised themselves as offering arm, leg, and pubic hair waxing for either male or female customers.

However, when Yaniv informed them she was transgender she says she was suddenly refused appointments outright, or that the estheticians made excuses for no longer being able to perform the service.

In response to the complaints against them, several estheticians have claimed to lack the training required for waxing male genitals, or that they are not comfortable doing so for religious or personal reasons. 

Yaniv withdrew a previous complaint against Laser Cut and was ordered by the tribunal to pay legal costs of $150.

Religion and lack of training 

Earlier this month, the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms represented three British Columbian estheticians before the human rights tribunal.

"We don't believe that it's a human right to be able to compel a woman to wax male genitalia," said lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay.

On its website, the centre states that one of its clients, Sandeep Banipal is not trained to wax male genitals and that Blue Heaven Beauty Lounge, the business she owns, does not advertise male genital waxing.

Sukhi Hehar Gill, an esthetician also represented by the Justice Centre, is a practicing Sikh and claims this prevents her from travelling to a biologically male's house for house calls.

The public hearing attracted attention Friday with about 30 individuals attending the proceedings and gathering outside. Some were there to support Yaniv while others demonstrated in support of the estheticians, many of whom are women of colour.

Protesters outside Jessica Yaniv's B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in July, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In a May 2019 decision, the tribunal member adjudicating the hearing said she was "troubled that some of JY's comments, made within this process and online, suggest that she holds stereotypical and negative views about immigrants to Canada."

Yaniv is seeking financial remedies of $25,000 from at least one corporate salon and $7,500 from an independent esthetician.

She also wants the B.C. Human Rights tribunal to issue a statement declaring the refusal of waxing services to be discriminatory and prohibited.

"It's not about the service at all," said Yaniv after the hearing concluded on Friday. "When you start discriminating against certain service elements and certain protected classes that's when we really have an issue."

The tribunal says it will have a decision on the case within three months.