Signs outside Wi Spa in Koreatown at previous rally on July 3. (Adam Elmahrek / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: Wi Spa controversy leads to violence at protests in LA

According to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, The Unruh Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1959 states that anyone regardless of gender is “entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

Recently controversy has arisen surrounding Wi Spa which is located in Los Angeles. From my personal experience of going to Wi Spa, participants remove all clothing and enter large bathing rooms separated by gender filled with shower stalls, large pools with varying temperatures and steam sauna rooms.

After one exits the bathing rooms, there are co-ed “common areas” where both men and women (clothed) can enjoy Korean food, a gym, specialty saunas like a salt sauna or a “Jimjilbang” which is a co-ed space, where you can sleep on the heated floors, or even rest and do some work.

Many times, parents take their children along with them to enjoy the fun experience of the different sauna rooms and delicious food. When I was a child, my mom would often take my sister and me to these bathing rooms, and we loved them.

On June 24, @cubanaangel on Instagram posted a video of her confronting staff because she felt uncomfortable that there was a transgender woman in the woman’s bathing room. She said: “It’s ok for a man to go into the women’s section, and show his penis around the other women [and to] young little girls who are underage? Wi Spa condones that?”

The manager explains “if they identify as a woman … We cannot discriminate against gender identity.” Their website also states: “We also do not deny or restrict access to our facilities or services to any customer on the basis of … sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression … protected by federal, state or local law.” 

Another customer asks: “so if I want to go on the boys’ side and say I’m a boy, then that is ok?”

The manager once again explains that if you identify as that then yes.

A mother who brought her two daughters argues: “But the sign says that if you are a male [and you enter the woman’s bathing room], then they are going to prosecute to the fullest extent. And when he comes in with testicles and a penis, and there’s a 9-year-old and a 14-year-old who has never seen a penis before. So what I’m saying is that we are older women, not little girls, and that traumatized us. We are here to protect the little girls because this is not ok.”

This incident has sparked violent protests in support of @cubanaangel since many feel that their rights as adult women were violated and that the minors in the spa were extremely traumatized from this event.

During the protest, a transphobe was also seen pulling out a gun and when asked why he simply responded: “something to shoot you with,” according to a July 3 tweet posted by @VPS_Reports.

Throughout L.A.’s Koreatown history, Koreatown has suffered so much financially from numerous violent protests and riots because of injustice and conflicting ideology. Because of this incident, how do you think Wi Spa’s business will be affected?

On Instagram, @cubanaangel has announced that she will be taking this issue to court.

What changes can society, businesses or even legislation do to prevent these violent protests in the future to help preserve Koreatown?

Now looking through a different perspective, if Wi Spa didn’t allow the transgender woman to go into the woman’s bathing room, they could have not only been punished by the law for violating The Unruh Civil Rights Act, but also the LGBTQ+ community and allies for discriminating against the transgender woman.

Some may argue that the transgender woman should not have put herself in that situation by going to a nude spa that commonly has children because that violates the rights of the other customers and minors. But, looking from the perspective of the transgender woman, it is also unfair for trans people to feel unwelcome to certain businesses because they could argue that that is a violation of their rights.

If you brought your child to Wi Spa, how would you feel about a nude non-transitioned trans woman bathing next to your child?

How could have Wi Spa, the transgender woman or the customer(s) reacted differently to this incident, and how can we support Wi Spa after this? Please let me know in the comments below!