Hundreds of protesters gathered along 196th Street Southwest near Lynnwood’s Olympus Spa Saturday in a clash of ideologies over transgender rights.
The protest was sparked by a series of events centered around Lynnwood’s Olympus Spa and its refusal to allow a transgender woman, Haven Wilvich, access to its female-only spa facilities. After receiving an invitation to a women’s event hosted at the spa, Wilvich said she called Olympus Spa to inquire and was told she would not be admitted. Following this, she reported the spa to the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) in May 2020.
According to court documents, Olympus Spa owner Sun Lee responded that the spa believed it did not violate state law. Nudity is required in certain parts of the spa and to compound the matter further, minors as young as 13 are permitted. While post-operative transgender women are permitted into the spa, allowing female minors to be exposed to male genitalia could make the spa criminally liable, Lee wrote.
Gender identity is a protected class within Washington state, so the WSHRC determined that Olympus Spa had discriminated against a protected class through its “biological women” policy. The commission offered a settlement that would prevent Wilvich from taking further legal action if Olympus Spa changed its policy to align with state law. Spa owner Lee signed the settlement in September 2021.
In March 2022, Lee filed a lawsuit in federal court, stating that his civil rights to speech and religion were infringed upon, citing his Christian values and a potential loss of business. In his complaint, Lee said that patrons noticed male genitals in some previous incidents and the spa lost business as a result. The U.S. Western District of Washington dismissed the suit on June 5, 2023, writing that Lee’s speculation about lower future business revenue was not substantive of actual damages as it had not happened. Additionally, the court ruled that his rights were not violated.
Neither Olympus Spa’s owners nor Wilvich attended the protest. In fact, Olympus Spa boarded its doors shut hours prior. In a conversation with Wilvich, she stated that she hadn’t even thought about the spa since the settlement resolution in 2021 but recently started receiving death threats and slurs via email and social media. Wilvich said that she had to delete and change settings on her social media accounts to stop the influx of hateful messages.
Instead, those attending Saturday’s protests were members of activist groups including Sovereign Women Speak, Washington 3%, Gays Against Groomers, The Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women.
Sovereign Women Speak, founded by April Morrow to protest the placement of transgender women in womens’ prisons, organized the initial protest in response to the court decision. Morrow said she has visited the spa with family many times over the years and organized the protest after learning about the court ruling.
Sovereign Woman Speak was joined by Washington Three Percent, whose members stated they attended to protect the rights of protesters from possible violence by Antifa and Gays Against Groomers, which protests against gender-affirming care for minors.
Other groups, including The Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women, launched a counterprotest in response. The Freedom Socialist Party views the struggles of women and minorities as part of the struggle of the working class and attended to defend transgender rights. Radical Women is a socialist, feminist organization that also attended to promote feminist ideals.
— Story and photos by Jasmine Contreras-Lewis