The waxers debate: can you ever refuse to perform an intimate wax?

With Jessica Yaniv (a male-to-female transgender woman) recently filing a human rights complaint against a series of Canadian beauty salons after therapists refused to perform a Brazilian wax on her because she had male genitalia, and losing the case, the question of whether a waxer has the right to refuse a treatment has been hotly debated. 

Yet, this story is not the first of its kind and it’s unlikely to be the last. Some of these accused therapists have responded, citing that they lacked the training required for waxing male genitals or that they were not comfortable doing so for religious reasons. 

I’d like to think that if this situation happened in a UK salon then they wouldn’t be able to sue as easily because we have the right to say, “this therapist doesn’t wax male genitalia” – it’s not saying that the therapist doesn’t wax men, just that she isn’t trained to wax the penis shaft and scrotum. The therapist has to be able to say no if they are not equipped to carry out the treatment because the client’s safety has to come first. 

For me, this issue isn’t about which gender somebody identifies as, it’s about the waxer being comfortable handling someone’s genitalia, and this is a very personal thing. Apart from doctors and nurses, beauty therapists are the only professionals who handle people’s bodies in such an intimate way.

However, once you’ve trained in male intimate waxing and publicise that you do it then you can’t turn down a pre-operative (pre-op) trans woman who has male genitals. This would be deemed as “transphobic” and you would be breaking the law because of the Equality Act. 

Let me give you an example: a pre-op trans woman looking for an intimate waxing treatment went to a male waxing specialist near Newcastle. The waxer refused to treat her because she identified as a woman, even though she had male genitalia. In this situation, why wouldn’t you treat the trans woman when you’re educated and equipped to do so? It’s wrong. 

How to safeguard your salon

I guess the big question is, how can the industry decrease the likelihood of these situations arising? There’s been a lot of talk online about whether waxing treatment names need to be changed to meet modern society’s needs. 

Instead of “male” and “female” intimate wax, why not make it obvious what the treatment is with names like “shaft and scrotum wax” and “labia wax”? That way your client knows exactly what to book in for and the therapist knows exactly what they’re dealing with. 

The treatment name issue is something I’ve experienced with my own customers, too. My pre-op male-to-female trans clients used to always book in for male intimate waxing and it was something I wanted to address because none of them should have to book anything that says “male”, it’s not fair. 

On my menu, I now have a separate Brazilian/Hollywood wax treatment with a “(T*)” next to it. This signals to my trans clients that this treatment is for them, making the booking process easier. It also leaves no room for confusion. 

I’ve also got a page on my website about trans beauty which showcases to clients that we’re an inclusive space. It’s important to be this transparent because trans clients tend to search online for treatments rather than popping into salons on the high street to enquire. 

How to safeguard yourself as a home-based therapist

The other big issue these court cases bring up is the question of therapist safety. Some of the people being sued in Canada are home-based therapistsand they refused to perform the treatment because they choose to only see female clients. The issue may have been that they questioned their personal safety, which is why they refused the treatment, which again comes back to the genitalia you’re presented with.

There’s such a fine line with this situation because if I was home-based and I said I only wanted to treat women, in theory that should include trans women. However, it’s difficult because it’s basically down to what genitals the client has and whether you’re trained and comfortable to handle them as to whether you can treat them or not. 

If you decide you’re going to do male intimate waxing from your home then you’ve got to have safeguarding protocols in place – get all the client’s personal details up front, let a friend know when they are coming to your house and try to have someone else (like a family member) in the building with you.  

I once had a male client send me a video of him enjoying his bits and pieces after an intimate waxing treatment, so this dodgy stuff does happen. I know of another waxer who received an email from a client who told her that during the treatment he had some semen leak out the end of his penis and liked it. 

It’s not fair that waxers have to experience these things but they do happen, so precaution has to be taken to stay safe. There’s lots of professional waxing chats on Facebook that can provide you with support. I know of one where UK waxers share partial details of dodgy clients who have acted inappropriately before, during or after treatment. Remember, there’s a network of waxers out there waiting to help you.  

Sam MarshallSam Marshall is owner of The Beauty Guru in Manchester and an intimate waxing specialist. 

Find out more about how to make your beauty business trans-friendly