JESSICA Yaniv, a Canadian self-identified transgender woman, has lost a case before the British Columbia Human Rights tribunal. The case was brought against a series of self-employed beauticians after they refused to perform a ‘Brazilian wax’ treatment on Yaniv’s intact male genital area, in what Yaniv claimed was a case of discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
Since 2017, Canadian law in many states permits individuals to self-identify their gender on all official documents without any requirement for physical alteration, and further prohibits discrimination against individuals based on ‘gender identity’. That is to say, you may be in breach of human rights law if you demur when someone who appears male asks you to address them as ‘ma’am’.
In this context, the world watched with some concern as Yaniv brought what appeared to be a series of vexatious cases against beauticians, some of whom had religious or cultural objections to being alone with a male, let alone being obliged to handle male genitals in the course of treatments they expected to perform only on female bodies. The case was dismissed on Tuesday, with strong words from the tribunal members about Yaniv’s attempt to ‘weaponise’ human rights law for personal enrichment.
This could be seen as a glimmer of sanity in the increasingly unhinged debate about transgender rights, and the extent to which those rights supersede observable reality and human biology, not to mention the interests of women suddenly obliged to include male-bodied people in the category ‘woman’. Radical feminists and conservatives have long argued that gender self-identification would lead to bad actors abusing the unverifiability of ‘gender identity’ for vexatious or sexually predatory purposes, and this case is not the first instance.
Two cheers, perhaps. But last week male-bodied cyclist Rachel McKinnon smashed the female Masters World Championship track cycling record to barely a murmur from the mainstream press. This week a father in Texas lost a court case, forcing him to accede, at the mother’s behest, to his seven-year-old son’s ‘gender transition’, leading in due course to his medical sterilisation via puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.
It is not at all clear that the tide is turning. Against that background, is the Yaniv ruling really such a victory for common sense? Yaniv’s complaint was so self-evidently absurd, and Yaniv so rebarbative an individual, that those objecting to gender self-identification could not have asked for a better ally. A pessimistic read of the ruling would see it less as the tide turning and more as an exercise in damage limitation, throwing Yaniv’s reductio ad absurdum of gender self-identification out of court while retaining the incoherent and reality-defying rules that permitted Yaniv to bring this frivolous case in the first place.