It’s time to call out nonsense in our community: Transgender woman files human rights suit against waxing salon.
Over the last year, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the nonsense and rhetoric billowing out of the far left extreme of the trans community. It sometimes feels like they’re actually creating a parody of our position (maybe it’s the Russians trolling us?). For too long I just assumed that we all should stand together and show solidarity, but I’ve come to realise that being silent is massively detrimental to our overall acceptance: We need to call out the nonsense from within or the inevitable backlash caused by these foolish people will hurt us all.
Last week, a story broke that a Canadian spa is facing a human rights tribunal for denying waxing treatment to a trans woman. To condense the story down: A pre op trans woman was refused female waxing service on the grounds that she has male body parts. Her argument was that bikini waxing is a service being offered to all other women and the salon should accommodate her. Not doing this somehow violates her human rights.
To be clear, I am 100% up for standing up to discrimination, both overt and subtle, but this was neither. There are three reasons for this:
Firstly, the salon owner was not saying “you’re not a real woman, please leave”. In fact, from what I understand he had no issue with providing non intimate waxing to her. He was essentially saying “we don’t wax that body part at this salon”. Having been through the process in both of my lives, I can attest that waxing a vulva is a different process than waxing what I had before. It requires a different technique, takes different amount of time and is priced differently. It is in fact a completely different product; a product that they don’t offer.
We’ve all been into a restaurant at some point and said: “hey? could I switch out the fries for new potatoes please?”. The restaurant may accommodate your request if they can, but they may also say “ooh sorry — we don’t actually do those”.
Being denied a product that the vendor doesn’t offer is simply not discrimination.
I have seen arguments that say “the salon owner should be offering this service: It’s not a big deal, they should get with the times. Forgetting the transgender issue for a second, there’s a big market for male waxing”. Yes, maybe it would make good business sense to do that, maybe it wouldn’t, but what products they offer is his choice to make. If he misses out on a huge market opportunity, the laws of capitalism will ensure that his competitors make much more money; that’s his call as a business owner. As an aside, a quick google search revealed numerous competitors with this service on their website in the area.
There are others in our community who appear to be of the view that a pre-op trans woman’s penis is somehow not a penis and that not treating it as a vulva is discriminatory. If this is you: I don’t know which path you took to get here, but somewhere along the way, you got very, very lost. There’s no identifying one’s way out of this material truth. That is not to say that we don’t have many social constructs that transcend biology. Genitals are irrelevant in 99% of our day to day lives, but in this specific instance, the material reality is completely relevant.
Secondly, the salon owner has said that one of his waxing technicians was a muslim woman and would not be able to come into contact with the trans woman’s anatomy. Some of the trans activists have said he should have got one of the other technicians to do it.
The issue of religion is a distraction here; this is a question of consent.
The hardline trans exclusionary radical feminists and religious right conservative men often make horrible sweeping statements about trans people being sexual predators and virtual rapists. Trying to compel a woman to touch your penis without her consent is on the spectrum of rapeyness. As someone who is within the T of LGBT+, I feel a responsibility to say that this is not acceptable; I don’t stand with you. It’s validating the worst things they say about us. Trying to force this on the ground of so called “trans rights” is manufacturing a situation that creates a direct conflict with women’s rights. If you’re a trans woman and want to be treated as a woman, then woman’s rights really should be critically important to you. If they aren’t: I’d be asking yourself some hard questions about that.
Finally, It seems somewhere along the way, people have forgotten that we as individuals enter into an unspoken contract with society. In that implicit contract, we sacrifice some of our individuality in exchange for a place in that society. I might, for instance, be super keen on walking through town at midnight, playing a tuba. However, I have to give up that liberty, that individual preference, in order to live around people. In other instances, society accommodates our individual needs. For example, most public spaces have disabled ramps to allow wheelchair users to access. The majority flexes to accommodate the needs of the minority. Not every one of our individual needs or preferences can be accommodated by the majority. As trans people, we are asking the 99.4% of the population to take a leap of faith and accept us for what we say we are. They make reasonable accommodations for our needs. The vast majority of people treat me with respect, use the correct pronouns and, in every meaningful sense, accept me as a woman. But there will be some situations that I need to relinquish my individual needs, because of the spirit of give and take and need for a fair equilibrium between the needs of the many and the needs of the few. When I was pre-op, there were certain physical things that it simply wasn’t reasonable to expect people to accommodate whatever my preferences were. This woman appears to have forgotten that. While she’s pre-op, she could simply go somewhere that accommodates her anatomy. Even as a post op transexual woman, if some waxing technician said to me “actually, I feel a bit weird about this”, I can either beat the drum of discrimination or ask myself what the kind thing to do is. I know which of those two situations will foster more resentment towards the trans community. There may be a fine line between what I just discussed and discrimination, but with kindness we can make space for each other; we all have to share this world.