Heated protest over transgender rights draws hundreds to Lynnwood

One protester stands in front of a gate-protected sculpture intended to symbolize love in Lynnwood.


Lynnwood Police planned to mediate the event, arriving hours before it began.

One individual holding part of an illustration that features a boot kicking a swastika.


Traffic was impeded outside of the event center.

The protest was initially planned to be outside of Olympus Spa but was moved to the other side of the parking lot.

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

  1. I am lucky. I was raised with respect for race, religion and ethnicity. But, I have not always been able to go and do whatever I want for a variety of reasons. As a biological female at 13, I was very immature, and frankly, glad I was not exposed to all that the young kids of today are bombarded with in the media, and especially, social media. It would have bothered me back then to see male and female nudity. Many would say I should have dealt with that but I am ok with it. I believe Wilvich has options and places she can go and be comfortable. In today’s society if you disagree with anything you sue or react with violence . I am going to show my age, but the Rolling Stones had good advice… ” No, you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometime you’ll find you get what you need”.

  2. My perspective is different.

    Wilvich has dealt with hateful threats recently, after hateful news outlets referred to a 2022 lawsuit having to do with Washington state’s non discrimination law. Wilvich’s name was included in the article, as well as some hateful misinformation.

    The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the owner of the Spa, by an anti-LGBT hate group. The first court response did not go their way, and an amended complaint will be filed soon.

    Lynnwood city council member Jim Smith attended this event, and interacted with the side that spews hatred and intolerance. That is why I want his challenger, Nick Coelho to win the council race in November.

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