THE Melbourne waxing salon at the centre of a controversy for refusing to wax a trans woman has refused to answer direct questions posed by the Star Observer.
Karen Parker wanted to treat herself on her birthday in October last year by going into Brazilica’s Brunswick salon to get a brazilian wax and when booking the appointment let the staff know she was a trans woman.
“They accepted my booking and when I turned up on the day the girl there said it was all fine,” Parker told Star Observer.
“I got disrobed and she (the beautician) came back in, we chatted and everything.
“But when she went to wax me, she took the towel off and there was this expression on her face of disgust and revulsion. She said, ‘we don’t do men’.
“I thought everything was clear about who I was.”
Brazilica management told Parker they did not realise she was “pre-op” (sex reassignment surgery) and the business does not provide waxing services for male genitalia, despite its website claiming it services “everybody” and that “we cater to all women and men, from the arch in your brow to the rogue hair on your toe and everything in between”.
The section on Brazilica’s website clearly states it services all people:
“We’re not all post-op as most people know, many people choose not to have gender reassignment surgery and it’s not their business to assume,” Parker said.
“I am a woman, I can’t help the fact I was born being assigned with the wrong genitalia. Genitals don’t define a person, as a trans woman saying I have male genitalia is hurtful.
“I don’t thinks it’s fair and it’s not the point.”
Parker took her case to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission who confirmed she has been the victim of gender identity discrimination, but Brazilica refused to engage in the voluntary dispute resolution process forcing Parker to take legal action.
“Legal Aid said it was discrimination, they filed a statement asking for them to change their policy or making it clear they won’t serve certain people,” Parker said.
“But they backed out of doing that.”
Star Observer approached Brazilica’s owner Georgia Locke for an interview about the incident, who then requested any questions be emailed to her because this was now a “legal issue”.
Some of the questions included whether Brazilica would do waxing for trans men who had not undergone sex reassignment surgery, would Brazilica management undergo training to better understand the needs of trans clients, would it consider training some of its staff to service trans people and why it did not engage in the Human Rights Commission process.
Star Observer also asked Locke why the company’s website said it ‘caters to all women and men from head to toe’, but refused Parker services causing her emotional trauma.
Locke did not respond directly to the questions instead, sending a general statement some of which said: “we want to be the best in every service we offer, and that’s why our service offering is restricted”.
“We do not offer Brazilian waxes to people with male genitalia, which is the source of the recent issue with a client. We understand that Karen Parker was upset by this. It was not our intention to cause any distress,” the statement said.
“We are a business, yes, but we are also a member of the vibrant and eclectic communities we serve, and we embrace ALL members of those communities. Our client base reflects the diversity of those communities, and of that we are particularly proud.
“While we stand by the integrity of our service offering, we are a proud supporter of the LGBTI community, as we will continue to be.”
Sandra Campitelli, CEO, Hair & Beauty Industry Association (HBIA) said she expected salons would be respectful to trans people and “treat them as any other person”.
“I could see why potentially there’s an issue, if they don’t want to offer male intimate waxing they need to clearly state that,” she said.
“There are a number of salons that would not have an issue with it… they (Brazilica) would’ve done that because they were not properly informed.
“We could compile a list of the industry as a whole who wants to support this community to have available for people.”
Sally Goldner, CEO, Transgender Victoria said the incident was clearly humiliating for Parker and that Brazilica was “thumbing its nose at Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission” and anti-discrimination laws.
“If they’re not trained to provide a service, she shouldn’t have to disclose that at all. It’s a breach of her privacy that she would have to disclose that,’ she said.
“Training is the best possible solution for this.”
After months of legal turmoil, Brazilica’s legal team, Rankin & Co, offered to pay Parker $1000 in damages, but withdrew the offer earlier this month.
Parker said despite the negative impact on her mental health she wanted to turn the incident into an opportunity to change things.
“I have tried to put all my feelings aside and say to them, ‘can’t you commit to be more inclusive,” she said.