A popular women’s-only downtown spa is in hot water after a transgender customer claims she was denied service due to its policy prohibiting “male genitalia” after her spouse tried to make her a surprise booking last week.

“My wife tried to book me a surprise appointment at Body Blitz Spa but they won’t allow ‘male genitalia’ at the spa and told us not to come,” Jia Qing Wilson-Yang wrote on Twitter, Friday.

Wilson-Yang is a Toronto-based author known for her transgender narrative novel “Small Beauty,” which was awarded the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers last year. 

CTV News Toronto tried to contact Jia Qing Wilson-Yang for comment Monday without success.

Her post incited a barrage of feedback on Body Blitz Spa’s social media accounts, many saying they plan to boycott the business due to its “transphobic policy”. 

“I will no longer be coming here,” Heidi Idieh wrote on the spa’s Facebook review page. “A place where my trans women friends are not welcome is not a place for me.”

‘Body Blitz Spa is a single-sex facility’

Body Blitz Spa was opened in 2005 by two sisters – Laura and Rena Polley. It has since expanded, offering two locations at Adelaide Street West and Portland Street, and in Corktown at King Street East and Adelaide Street.

The high-end water treatment spa has a bathing-suit optional policy for its clients. 

Body Blitz Spa declined CTV News Toronto’s request for an interview. Instead the spa’s corporate affairs coordinator Rachel Duffy issued a statement.

“We support the LBGTQ community and recognize that this is a sensitive issue,” the statement read.

On Facebook, the spa tried to clarify the controversy triggered by its policy.

“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,” the Sunday Facebook post read.

“We recognize that this is an important discussion for single-sex facilities to have and we will seek to find a satisfactory resolution.”

‘I can’t go back’

This isn’t the first time the spa’s policy has come into question.

Shelley Marshall told CTV News Toronto she had a similar experience when she tried to book a spa date at Body Blitz for a transgender friend. 

Marshall, who runs a mental wellness drop-in centre from her Carlaw Avenue loft, says she had been a member at Body Blitz Spa’s east-end facility for nearly two year before the shocking experience.

“It’s a wonderful facility,” Marshall said. “I felt safe. It was an environment for women, which I needed.” 

Last year when her transgender friend bought a new bathing suit, she went to book a spa date for the two of them. 

“She got a beautiful bathing suit, she was describing it online, how it had a skirt and I thought, well wouldn’t it be beautiful to bring her to the spa for the day and celebrate this moment with her,” she said. 

But Marshall explained she wasn’t met with the same excitement by staff when booking the spa treatment.

“I said I wanted to check your policy on transgender women,” Marshall recalled. “One of the girls who works behind the counter – my sense is I don’t believe the manager taught her to say what she said to me – but she whispered, ‘our policy is, as long as this is gone, then they can come in.’” 

This shocked the Leslieville resident.

“I couldn’t go back to my friend and say you can’t come,” she said. 

Marshall claims she has since asked for a refund for her upcoming treatments after learning of Wilson-Yang’s experience. 

“I can’t go back … I cannot condone this ridiculous response from them,” she said. 

Women demand public apology, staff training

Mish Waraksa reviewed the business on Facebook, saying she was also a “big fan” of the upscale spa, but “won’t be returning until policies which discriminate against trans women are lifted.”

Waraksa is calling for a public apology alongside sensitivity training for staff. 

“[I’m] very disappointed and hope with new policies, Body Blitz will release a statement of apology for contributing to the alienation of these women as well as reaching out to organizations who can provide sensitivity training to Body Blitz staff,” Waraksa wrote on Facebook. 

Body Blitz Spa says it plans to work with a civil rights professional over the summer to help devise “a clear and fair policy.”