Right in time for Pride Month, a bathing suit-optional Toronto spa has attracted controversy over allegedly excluding some trans women from using its facilities. Body Blitz Spa, a high-end "women's only spa" offers two locations, on King Street West and East, and has been open since 2005.
"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,'" Weronika Jane wrote in a comment on their public Facebook post raising concern about the spa on June 9. Weronika Jane, who is a gender-nonconforming queer person, told VICE they "will no longer be a patron of Body Blitz because of their transmisogyny."
When contacted by VICE, Body Blitz Spa provided the following statement:
"We would like to state unequivocally that Body Blitz Spa does not have a policy excluding transgender women. We realize this is a sensitive rights issue and because there is nudity at Body Blitz Spa, we are not like other businesses and have unique considerations. We have over half a million visitors to the waters annually. We are not the only gender-specific facility dealing with this issue, and it is an important discussion for us as we seek to find a satisfactory resolution."
Shelley Marshall was previously a member of the spa for about two years and used to go daily, but stopped after having multiple bad experiences. One included a time about a year ago when she asked an employee at the front desk of the King Street East location if her friend, who was a trans woman, would be allowed in the spa.
"One of my friends who is a trans woman posted that she had bought a new bathing suit, and she was excited… I thought I should take her to the spa and it would be a beautiful experience," Marshall said. "I said that I had a transgender friend and asked if I was allowed to bring her, and she waved her hand over her crotch, leaned in, and whispered 'as long as this is gone.'"
Marshall, who is part of the queer community, also allegedly saw a trans man at Body Blitz once when she was still going to the spa.
The spa posted a statement on June 11 on Facebook in response to concern raised on social media, part of which said: "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. We acknowledge, respect, and admire all the myriad ways that women's bodies and gender are expressed."
For Margaret*, who has been going to Body Blitz Spa for over four years and is a trans woman, the controversy on social media over the weekend was at odds with her own experience.
"Even prior to having surgery, I just went. Personally, I'm modest—I wear a swimsuit—and everything seemed OK. Then I saw this Facebook discussion about it," she told VICE. After reading about the controversy surrounding Body Blitz, she called them.
The spa's response to Margaret included a representative for the company explaining that those using their facilities must "present as a woman" due to it being a clothing-optional environment. When she pushed them on what that meant, she said eventually they "vaguely" referred to the genital area.
"Trans women are women. If it's a women's space, we don't need to identify ourselves as anything else—just like cis women don't need to," Margaret said.
She said she thinks that it's possible the spa might have "worded it poorly" what its definition of a women-only space is. "I've been hesitant to go to all my cis friends and say that we have to boycott now," she said.
After seeing the various stories shared about Body Blitz on social media this weekend, Marshall also contacted them to request the credit remaining on her card for the spa be returned. "I'm never going back there," she said.
Body Blitz Spa said as part of its Facebook statement that they "will be working with a civil rights professional over the summer, to help us with a clear and fair policy."
"Until I get some sort of confirmation, I'm not willing to throw them under the train because I've moved in that space," Margaret said. "For me, especially in early transition, it was an affirming space to be able to enter with no questions asked."
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.
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