The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled against a transgender woman with male genitalia who sought personal waxing services from several salons, concluding that human rights legislation does not require a service provider to wax genitalia they are not trained for and have not consented to wax.
The decision released Tuesday concerned complaints filed by Jessica Yaniv, a transgender woman who sought waxing services from a number of providers in the Lower Mainland. In five cases she requested waxing of her scrotum, the decision said; in two, her arms and legs. In all the cases, when she told the service providers she was a transgender woman, they refused to provide the service.
Ms. Yaniv argued that amounted to discrimination on the basis of her gender identity and expression, in violation of B.C.'s Human Rights Code.
Tribunal member Devyn Cousineau disagreed, noting in her decision that most of the service providers are racialized, worked out of their own or clients’ homes and did not speak English as their first language. She said Ms. Yaniv “has engaged in a pattern of filing human rights complaints which target small businesses for personal financial gain and/or to punish certain ethnic groups which she perceived as hostile to the rights of LGBTQ+ people.”
Ms. Yaniv did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case was heard over six days of hearings in July in Vancouver. It generated debates on social media and pushed services typically conducted behind closed doors into the public domain, including discussions of waxing services and terms such as “brozilian” and “manzilian.”
There was also discussion of Ms. Yaniv’s genitals and a request for an independent medical examination, which was turned down.
Based on evidence presented in the hearings, Ms. Cousineau concluded Ms. Yaniv “was seeking to have hair removed from a scrotum,” the decision states.
The tribunal concluded that Ms. Yaniv had a financial motivation – in 10 of 13 complaints, she sought an apology and $3,000 in damages – and wanted to punish certain ethnicities.
“I accept that Ms. Yaniv is partly motivated by her desire to fight what she perceives as pervasive discrimination against transgender women in the beauty industry,” Ms. Cousineau said in the decision.
“However, I find that Ms. Yaniv’s predominant motive in filing her waxing complaints is not to prevent or remedy alleged discrimination, but to target small businesses for personal financial gains. In many of these complaints, she is also motivated to punish racialized and immigrant women based on her perception that certain ethnic groups, namely South Asian and Asian communities, are ‘taking over’ and advancing an agenda hostile to the interests of LGBTQ+ people. These motives are not consistent with the Code’s purposes," the decision states.
The tribunal ordered costs against Ms. Yaniv of $2,000 for each of the three respondents who presented a defence at the hearings.
The decision to award costs is “a recognition of the hardship that my clients have suffered over the last year and a half,” said Jay Cameron, litigation manager with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented five respondents in the case.
His clients found the process stressful and debilitating, he said.
No woman should be compelled to touch male genitals against her will no matter how the client identifies, Mr. Cameron said.
Morgane Oger, vice-president of the B.C. NDP and founder of the Morgane Oger Foundation, said she “applauded” the tribunal’s decision.
“You can’t ask someone – especially someone who is working alone or a business with only one worker – you can’t expect that worker to be proficient in all skills coverable by that discipline,” said Ms. Oger, who is also transgender. “There’s a difference between keeping away trans women [by refusing services] and having to take on new skills.”