Jessica Yaniv speaks at a Langley Township council meeting in the spring of 2019. (Screengrab)

Jessica Yaniv speaks at a Langley Township council meeting in the spring of 2019. (Screengrab)

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Warning: This story contains content some readers might find offensive

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint brought by a Langley transgender woman in a case about genital waxing that drew worldwide media attention.

Jessica Yaniv alleged that it was discriminatory that various Lower Mainland salons refused to provide her with waxing services.

In two cases, Yaniv requested arm or leg waxing, but in five cases she requested scrotum waxing.

She claimed refusal to serve her was discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, which is protected in the Human Rights Code.

The tribunal did not agree that gender expression means intimate grooming services must be provided.

“In the genital waxing cases, I find that scrotum waxing was not a service customarily provided by the respondents. As such, they did not deny Ms. Yaniv a service and did not discriminate against her,” tribunal member Devyn Cousineau wrote in the decision.

The tribunal noted there is no material difference between arm and leg waxing for men and women, but still didn’t find against the beauty salons.

“In the leg and arm waxing cases, I find that Ms. Yaniv filed the complaints for improper purposes,” the decision continues.

All of her complaints were dismissed.

The tribunal found that Yaniv had targeted her requests towards women, mostly minorities, often speaking English as a second language, who operated alone out of their own or their clients’ homes.

“These characteristics are significant because they support my conclusion that 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 perceives as hostile to the rights of LGBTQ+ people,” Cousineau wrote.

Only three of the people targeted by Yaniv’s complaints presented a defence.

The tribunal ordered Yaniv to pay each of those complainants $2,000 for her improper conduct during the course of the complaint.

Overall, the tribunal found that Yaniv’s testimony was “disingenous and self-serving.”

“In cross-examination, she was evasive and argumentative, and contradicted herself,” said the ruling.

Among other issues, Yaniv, who has previously identified as a trans woman, at one point during the hearing claimed to be intersex, which means someone who is born with genitalia that may be indeterminate or have elements of both male and female genitalia. At other times, she referred to having “male parts.”

She used fake names to approach some of the women, or approached them using the name “Jonathan” and a photo on social media that showed her with short hair and no makeup.

One of the women testified she didn’t turn down Yaniv because she was transgender – she was turned down because the witness was frustrated with multiple texts from Yaniv, and didn’t feel comfortable keeping the appointment.

After the salon owner cancelled Yaniv’s appointment, Yaniv got the woman’s Facebook page shut down by claiming it didn’t use the woman’s real name, and made repeated attempts to contact her at work, and via text and Facebook.

The woman became afraid and contacted the police. It eventually led to her shutting down her business entirely.

“A grocer is not required to service a bicycle,” the lawyer for the salons commented.

The women targeted by Yaniv’s complaints provided Brazilian waxing, but not the male equivalent, sometimes dubbed a “brozillian” or “manzillian.” The two procedures are very different, a fact that was confirmed by an expert witness at the tribunal, a salon owner, and instructor with 30 years of experience.

The tribunal decided “a scrotum is different than a vulva – regardless of the gender of the person it is attached to.”

It is rare for a Human Rights Tribunal to find that a complaint has been filed for “improper purposes,” the ruling noted.

“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,” Cousineau noted.

But her primary reason for filing the complaints was to target small businesses for financial gain, the tribunal ruled.

“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,” said the ruling.

The volume of complaints, the use of deception by Yaniv, her animus to certain races, religions, and cultures, and her stated desire to resolve all of her complaints for a financial settlement contributed to the finding, the ruling said.

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