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The case of Jessica Yaniv , the self-identified transgender woman who has pursued more than a dozen estheticians for redress at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over their refusal to wax her male genitalia and their environs, has occasioned some genuine and understandable concerns among trans rights activists. Neither the intense, offensive ridiculousness of Yaniv’s request nor the mounting allegations against her of racism and predatory behaviour toward children in various social media posts and private conversations released to media (which she insists were authored by impersonators ), nor her run-in with the Langley RCMP on Tuesday ( she says she was arrested for owning a prohibited weapon, minutes after brandishing a Taser on a podcast), should be any boon to transphobia. But it’s not hard to see how they could be.
Yaniv’s motives are, at the very least, questionable. In a May ruling , tribunal member Devyn Cousineau noted Yaniv had withdrawn three complaints in a row as soon as the respondent filed a defence — ostensibly over concerns she would be identified, but these are, after all, public proceedings. Cousineau raised the prospect of Yaniv being a “vexatious litigant,” and declined to classify her as such only “at this stage” (noting instead she was a “frequent litigant”). All in all, many clearly believe it’s best just to ignore the whole thing.
If Yaniv’s stunt weren’t screwing up other people’s lives, that might be a defensible approach. But it is screwing up other people’s lives, notably those of the recent immigrant women Yaniv targeted, who have neither the time nor the money to indulge this peculiarly Canadian ceremony. At least one woman claims to have abandoned her salon business as a result of Yaniv’s aggression. Some have reportedly already settled, which is outrageous whether or not money changed hands: The idea of compromising with someone who wants to force a woman to touch her male genitals — to touch any genitals at all, one might argue! — is repugnant. The idea of a state body facilitating such an agreement beggars belief.
Among those who are grudgingly paying attention, many have resorted to a sort of “both sides are wrong” argument: Yes, Jessica Yaniv seems to be an awful person, but so are the people taking such transphobic delight in the ongoing proceedings. That may be true, but it misses the point. Far too little attention is being paid to the real villain of this black farce, which is obviously the tribunal itself. There are a lot of creeps out there who would wreck your life and take your money without a moment’s thought. The government is supposed to make life more difficult for them, not easier. The real story here is that the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal did anything with Yaniv’s endless complaints except crumple them up and throw them in the garbage.
There is an argument floating around social media that the tribunal has no choice but to hear every case that arrives in its mailbox. In legal parlance, that’s known as “wrong.” The tribunal dismissed six per cent of complaints in 2017-18 without so much as a hearing. By contrast, in her May ruling, Cousineau explained just how critical an issue Yaniv — flawed complainant though she might be — had raised.
“The substantive issue … is an important one,” she wrote. “Waxing can be critical gender-affirming care for transgender women. At the same time, it is a very intimate service that is sometimes performed by women who are themselves vulnerable. (Yaniv’s) complaints raise a novel issue around the rights and obligations of transgender women and service providers in these circumstances. There is a public interest in having the issue resolved.”
In legal parlance, that’s known as “bananas.” There is no need for any precedent or ruling from any court as to whether anyone should be compelled to touch another person’s genitals for the purposes of hair removal. The answer is no. Next question, please.
There are cases of people refusing service to customers where it can get tricky: How is declining to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple different than a lunch counter turning away black patrons? How is a university that prohibits sexual relations between same-sex couples different than one that prohibits mixed-race couples? This is not one of those cases. If an aesthetician doesn’t want to wax your junk, you’re just going to have to go to a different aesthetician. There’s no law that says it. There doesn’t need to be a law. It’s just a natural part of living in modern Western civilization. There is no human right to genital waxing.
That the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal can’t understand this is evidence there is something terribly amiss. Many conservatives and libertarian types have been convinced of this for a very long time — the list of bizarre and outlandish complaints that get “mediated” and “settled” and ruled upon by provincial human rights apparatuses, instead of quite rightly ripped to shreds, is endless. Now, perhaps, it’s progressives’ turn to demand change. The more the merrier. Whatever the outcome of this case, vulnerable people have suffered needlessly — and you can bet legions of other potentially “frequent litigants” have taken note.
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: cselley
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