Haven Wilvich says the death threats began last Wednesday.

They poured in just after Seattle District Court Judge Barbara J. Rothstein dismissed a lawsuit from Olympus Spa, who sued the state for the right to exclude transgender women from its single-sex facilities in Lynnwood and Tacoma. 

The judge’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit mentioned Wilvich by name, which led to a flood of right-wing media coverage, violent bullying, and harassment. Anti-trans groups often use local and niche stories like this to fuel transphobic sentiment, always at the expense of the trans person in the story. And this situation is no different. 

The story began in January of 2020, when Wilvich’s friends invited her out for a spa day. Ahead of the trip, she called Olympus and asked if they admitted trans women who haven’t had sexual reassignment surgery. An employee said no and explained that their presence would make customers and staff “uncomfortable.”

The following month, Wilvich filed a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) over the spa’s stated policy of only admitting “biological-women.” In court documents, the spa claimed that trans women with neo-vaginas, or people who “physically present in the nude as female,” were allowed in, but the stated policy specified “biological women” with no qualification. The commission found that policy discriminatory.

The Stranger could not reach the spa by phone Monday.

Transgender people are a protected class in Washington, regardless of what they’re packing. WSHRC Executive Director Andreta Armstrong said the Washington Administrative Code is clear: Under the law, trans people are allowed in single-sex spaces including bathrooms, locker rooms, and spas like Olympus.

An investigator from the WSHRC emailed Wilvich in October 2021 to say the commission had reached an agreement with Olmypus and that the spa would change its policy. Armstrong said the WSHRC also trained employees because the spa is a small business.

Wilvich posted about the win on social media and thought that was that. But behind the scenes, the spa geared up for a fight with the WSHRC.

Owner Myoon Woon Lee filed suit in March of 2022, two years after Wilvich’s initial complaint. In court documents and letters to the WSHRC, Olympus Spa argued the state forced the company to violate its religious and cultural beliefs by serving trans and cis women in the same space. Nudity is not optional for certain procedures that have been historically sex-segregated in Korean traditions, the spa wrote. Owner Lee also claimed the presence of trans women could endanger business and subject the spa to “criminal penalties” because the place admits minors. Three employees, spa President Sun Lee, and a patron joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs. Olympus sought monetary damages and the freedom to enact the old policy. 

Tracy Tribbett, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, is representing the spa. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies PJI as an anti-LGBT hate group that has endorsed conversion therapy, claimed Pride month promotes gay porn to kids, and compared gay marriage to Hitler's ascent in Nazi Germany.

The judge dismissed this First Amendment challenge and gave the spa until July 5 to file an amended complaint.

And that’s when the threats came in.

One man wrote that Wilvich should “expect [her] ass kicked.” A woman wrote that she belongs in a cage and should kill herself. One man wrote that he hopes Wilvich becomes a statistic, a reference to high trans suicide rates. Some threw out the term “autogynephilia,” a disproved psychological theory that transition is sexually motivated.

These violent and cruel messages all came after conservative outlets such as The Daily Mail, The New York Post, and various conservative grifters posted stories about this suit that focus on Wilvich, not the law.

After the deluge began, Wilvich deleted and locked down her social media accounts. She worries someone will dox her, a relatively common occurrence for trans women at the center of these stories. 

Wilvich said this whole story came out of nowhere–she was not involved in the spa’s lawsuit against the WSHRC, and she said she didn’t even didn’t know about it until the attacks came.

She didn’t write the state’s nondiscrimination law, either. “It's a law that's written by lawmakers in the state–and if they're pissed then they should take it up with their lawmakers,” she said in a phone call.

She also didn’t know her name could be public. The submission form for WSHRC says any information and documents submitted are public record, including medical records and other types of protected information. She wishes she knew that back in 2020 and thinks there’s a problem.

“It shouldn't be the case that in order to make a complaint of human rights violations and a violation of Washington state law that you have to be publicly named in searchable documents,” she said.

This Saturday, the anti-trans group Sovereign Women Speak plan to protest the dismissal outside the spa’s Lynnwood location. Counter-protesters plan to show up, too.