Women-only spa stirs controversy after transgender woman turned away

A popular women-only spa in Toronto is at the centre of a social media maelstrom after a transgender woman said she was not allowed in because of a policy forbidding male genitalia.

Transgender author Jia Qing Wilson-Yang tweets that her wife was told she wasn't allowed in

The King Street East location of Body Blitz in Toronto is a women-only spa whose policy around transgender women is under fire. (Google Maps)

A popular women-only spa is at the centre of a social media maelstrom after a transgender woman said she was not allowed to enter because of a policy forbidding male genitalia.

Transgender author Jia Qing Wilson-Yang tweeted on Friday that her wife had hoped to make her a surprise appointment at Body Blitz, a water circuit spa with multiple locations in Toronto, but had been told that Wilson-Yang would not be allowed in.

Since then, a flurry of tweets and posts on the spa's Facebook page have seen people lining up on both sides of the debate, with some slamming the policy as discriminatory and others applauding it.

"My home girls and I love this spa!! Thank you for keeping women safe," reads one post on the Body Blitz Facebook page.

"As this city prepares to celebrate and honour its great wonderful diversities, your cowardly bullying actions are truly a revolting juxtaposition," reads another.

NDP critic for LGBT issues wades in

On Tuesday, High Park member of the Ontario Legislature and NDP critic for LGBT issues Cheri DiNovo released a statement criticizing the spa for what she described as "blatant transphobia and violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code." 

"Remember lesbians and gays banned from change rooms of health clubs? This is the same thing," DiNovo was quoted as saying. 

Other people have shared similar stories to Wilson-Yang, with one commenter reporting that a transgender friend had been called shortly before their booking to tell them not to come due to the spa's rule regarding male genitalia. 

Another woman said a staff member told her that the spa's rule was "as long as this is gone," before waving her hand over her pelvis. 

Former client calls for apologies, training

Alex Abramovich, a transgender man who was a client at Body Blitz before transitioning, expressed disappointment in what he described as a poorly thought out policy, in an appearance on CBC Radio's Here and Now on Tuesday. 

"I think it's archaic and narrow-minded for a facility to grant access to people based on their genitals," he said. 

Abramovich, who works with LGBT youth in his capacity as a scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said the comments supporting Body Blitz that focus on women's safety are also missing the mark. 

"I don't really understand what people are so afraid of. Are they afraid that a trans woman who was enjoying a day at the spa like anyone else is going to assault them?" he asked. 

Abramovich is calling on Body Blitz to apologize to the trans community and give staff a "trans 101" crash course. He said the spa should develop a new policy and "understand that when you open up a service that says women only, that trans women should be included because trans women are women." 

Body Blitz responds

Body Blitz, whose management declined an interview with CBC Toronto, wrote in an email that they "support the LGBTQ community and recognize that this is a sensitive issue. However, because Body Blitz Spa is a single-sex facility with full-nudity, we are not like other facilities." 

The spa had also responded previously in a Facebook post, saying that the owners are working with a "civil rights professional" over the summer to help create a "clear and fair policy."

What do other women-only spas do?

A representative of Sweetgrass, another women-only spa in Toronto, told CBC Toronto that it does not have any policy in place regarding transgender women — but it plans to seek legal advice to ensure that it's being inclusive to all clientele. 

The situation is different at Sweetgrass, said spa director Monique Joustra, because clients are not nude together and typically wear robes during treatments. 

She said she was "never aware" of a transgender woman coming to the spa, but that doesn't mean none have come, because it's possible they came in and received services without incident. 


  • An earlier version of this story identified Alex Abramovich as Adam Abramovich and identified him as a medical doctor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. In fact, he is a scientist there.
    Jun 13, 2017 10:13 PM ET