Lush Cosmetics

An anti-trans hate group, WPUK, has revealed that it received a £3000 grant from the Lush Charity Pot to organise events. Lush, which avoids testing cosmetics on non-human animals, and uses only vegetarian ingredients, has a long record of supporting LGBT rights. Lush publishes a list of organisations receiving grants, and WPUK is not on it. However Lush has confirmed it gave a grant to the hate group, saying the grant “predated our awareness of how toxic discussion of this issue had become and before we put rules in place around this subject”.

In 2019 Lush gave a grant to TransgenderNI, a community hub for trans people in Belfast and across Ireland. They also support actually feminist organisations, such as Samosa Sisters, training migrant women on women’s legal rights. Unfortunately Lush also funded FiLiA, a group which does some feminist work but devotes increasing energy to anti-trans hate.

Lush should act to ensure its funds do not go to hate groups, however positively they state their aims. While the “Woman’s Place Manifesto” does not mention trans people once, everything it campaigns on is about excluding trans women from women’s spaces. The phrase they use to avoid mentioning trans people is “single-sex”.

When it holds the meetings Lush in part funded, the hate group preaches hate against trans people. I have not watched all their videos, as the  propagandist flood of lies, half-truths and hate gets unbearable, but I watched their leader Kiri Tunks on 25 February 2019. Tunks pretended that trans rights recommended by a Parliamentary inquiry were proposed by the government, and then pretended that those rights were contrary to women’s rights. In 2018 Pilgrim Tucker incited her audience against trans women.

Lush has a long record of supporting LGBT rights. In 2016 they ran a #GayisOK campaign with AllOut. They asked customers buying their sparkly Love Soap to post a selfie with it on social media, and reached 30m people with direct campaign messages. Profits from the soap went to a Love Fund of £275,955. This is also good publicity for Lush.

Lush supports trans rights. In 2018 they gave away pronouns badges, and explained,

At Lush, we recognise that there are more than two genders, and all are welcomed and respected. It’s all too easy to make assumptions about the gender of another person based on that person’s appearance, but assumptions aren’t always correct. In fact, making assumptions based on a person’s appearance can perpetuate the idea that people have to look a certain way to demonstrate their gender identity. This can be harmful in that it has the potential to limit freedom of expression and also imposes a culture of conditional acceptance.

That is, the company in general supports trans rights alongside wider LGBT+ rights, and the grant is a mistake, or an act by an individual against the policy of the company. Here are the Charity Pot guidelines:

Charity Pot is a Lush hand and body cream where 100% of all sales (minus local taxes) are distributed as grants, to groups working in the areas of:

    • Animal Protection
    • Environment
    • Human Rights (incl. social justice, peace & equality)

WPUK works against human rights, social justice, and equality. Lush say, “groups or projects that support, incite or promote violence, aggression or oppression towards others would not be funded.” Any WPUK grant must therefore be a mistake. “Applications are NOT accepted from organisations that… deny the human rights of others… harbour…prejudice… judge others on anything other than their actions”. WPUK would merely define our human rights out of existence.

Complaints can be sent to wecare@lush.co.uk. Please be courteous. It may be worthwhile acknowledging Lush’s record supporting LGBT rights. Lush UK did not apologise, but Lush USA did not mince words.

2 December: here is Lush’s statement. They say FiLiA did not apply specifically for anti-trans hate, and indeed FiLiA is not as obsessed with trans as WPUK or LGB All Liars. They do occasionally consider other stuff, even if they include obsessive haters. A friend then pointed me to a ridiculous, hate-filled rant by a ridiculous, hate-filled transphobe published by FiLiA.

What Lush says about WPUK is just weird. However, this is the important bit:

for those of you that have joined this conversation from different places and have been left wondering whether Lush has deliberately funded campaigning against trans rights, we want to assure you that this would never be our intention and we are sincerely sorry that any of our funding has gone towards doing this.

They recognise that trans lives matter.

Dropping “Trans women are women”?

“I’m really focused on the idea that we don’t have to convert everybody to our way of understanding gender,” Nancy Kelley said in her first interview since taking up the position as head of the UK’s leading gay rights charity. “For Stonewall to succeed, it doesn’t have to make people believe as it believes. What it has to do is make people support changes that make trans lives easier.”

Kelley said that her priority was to reach a broad consensus that trans people need protection and that reforms to the administrative process – “which makes little difference to anybody apart from trans people” – are treated as just that.

“There is a lot of debate on the theory of gender and sex, it’s all terribly interesting and there are a million PhD theses to be written about it,” said Kelley, “but for the experience of trans people’s lives to be more positive, and for them to have lower levels of hate crime, better access to health services and more inclusive schools and workplaces, we don’t need people to agree on what constitutes womanhood.

“We must come back to the basics of building empathy for the idea that we want our fellow humans to experience a dignified, positive life,” said Kelley. “And there are things that as a society that we can change to make that more likely.”

What does that mean? I fear it means making trans people more uncomfortable. I don’t think it means taking the edge off hate groups’ campaigns against trans people, or necessarily off Stonewall. It may confuse the general public.

In theory, I could agree. However when I say “trans women are women” I mean we are socially women, not necessarily that we have women’s brains or women’s souls or are in some way intersex, just that society grudgingly tolerates transition. Hate groups hate that simple phrase. Graham Linehan has just been kicked off Twitter for tweeting “Men aren’t women”.

What is “Stonewall’s way of understanding gender”? I searched Stonewall for “transgender” and did not find the page “the truth about trans”, though that page does not use the longer word. I fear Nancy Kelley is going to be changing the website, or changing their campaigning.
In their “glossary of terms” I found

Transgender woman
A term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This may be shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female.
Gender
Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

I would like Stonewall, and Nancy Kelley, to make people believe that definition of gender, but I find the definition of “transgender woman”- not a phrase I would use- fairly non-threatening to trans excluders. We “identify and live as women”. This is alright so far as it goes, but does not say we are actually women. However on “The truth about trans” they say “Being trans isn’t about having (or not having) particular body parts. It’s something that’s absolutely core to a trans person’s identity and doesn’t alter – whatever outward appearances might be.” We don’t need to have surgery. I find that an absolute minimum on trans rights, as a demand we have to have had surgery excludes all those starting transition, but trans excluders fearmonger about our surgery. It also says,

So, could a lesbian have a trans woman as a lesbian partner, or a gay man be with a trans man?
Of course. If they fancy each other. First and foremost, we need to recognise that trans women are women, and trans men are men. After that it becomes a matter of who you are attracted to. Adults are free to have relationships with other consenting adults, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What would reforming gender recognition mean?

If you’re a cis person, it will barely affect you. All that will happen is that trans people in the UK will have a slightly easier life. However, it will mean you and your family are living in a fairer society, one where people – maybe including some people you love and care for personally – are free to lead the lives they want to live, without the abuse and discrimination that’s an everyday part of life for many trans people at the moment.

It says trans children should be supported, and trans women should be in women’s toilets, women’s refuges and women-only shortlists. It does not mention sport, but that may be an oversight. It’s fairly clear “The truth about trans” is written by a trans person, or an extraordinarily sensitive ally; the glossary probably not.

Having trans women “experience a dignified, positive life” means treating us for all social purposes as women. I am happy to say “Sex is real” as long as that is not taken as some sort of denial that socially I am a woman. I would like Stonewall to campaign against rigid gender stereotypes, as that would help free lesbians, gay men and even straights, as well as trans people.

I don’t know whether Stonewall under Ruth, Baroness Hunt, had one way of understanding gender. Gender is complex and can mean different things when discussing trans people and when discussing wider society. I am happy Nancy Kelley, another lesbian, wants to “make trans lives easier” and get widespread support for that. But I don’t know what changes Ms Kelley might make in trans campaigning, and fear the fairly meaningless words at the start of this post will encourage trans excluders and dispirit trans people. I would love there to be less heat in the trans debate, for anti-trans campaigners to build bridges with trans people and for both groups to find how we could work together, but at the moment both sides have a “with us or against us” mentality, prone to analysing the words of prominent campaigners like Nancy Kelley like theologians analysing the words of Jesus. It ain’t like working for the National Centre for Social Research, as Kelley formerly did.

“I don’t know if the government is stoking a culture war,” said Kelley, “but they’re certainly not reassuring the trans community that they will make positive steps, and the trans community is incredibly distressed and worried.”

She is on our side. Cut her some slack. I am not sure she is ready for this, though.

I was bothered by this because trans people are worried by Keir Starmer. Rather than saying “trans women are women” he now says “trans rights are human rights”, and we get wound up. Recently LGBT Labour’s campaign for “progressive reform to the Gender Recognition Act” (as anodyne a name as anyone could ask for) was published under the heading “trans rights are human rights”. No trans person could disagree. Trans excluders might have difficulty disagreeing with the phrase, even if they might disagree on what our human rights should actually be. Maybe that’s the point.

Labour Campaign for Trans Rights

Labour Party members should sign the founding statement and pledges to support trans rights. I signed before there were five hundred signatories, and by 1pm on 11 February the MPs Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner, Karl Turner and Nadia Whittome, as well as over a thousand activists, had signed. Lisa Nandy also tweeted support. She was faced with some thanks and a deluge of self-pitying abuse. So was Rebecca Long-Bailey. By 13 February at 00.00 Lisa Nandy, Dawn Butler, Emily Thornberry and Alex Sobel had also signed. Later MP signatories: Zahra Sultana, Clive Lewis, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Olivia Blake. So the women who are leadership or deputy leadership candidates have all signed.

Before the election, the so-called Labour Women’s Declaration demanded that trans women be excluded from “changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons” and women’s sports. It was a deliberate attempt to create division just before the election, and may have suppressed some Labour votes. Now, after the election, trans people and our allies have answered it. No MPs have signed the transphobes’ declaration.

These are the pledges, with my commentary:

1. Accept the material reality that trans people are oppressed and discriminated against in British society, facing a rising risk of hate crime, and difficulty accessing public services, healthcare, housing and employment.

Hate crime is not, as the twitterfreaks would have you believe, merely using the wrong pronouns for someone. That can be hate speech- but hate crime is a crime motivated by hate: intimidation, harassment, damaging property and violence may be hate crimes.

2. Believe that trans liberation must be an objective of the Labour Party, and that transphobia is antithetical to our collective aims.

Trans people have existed for centuries, and have been harmlessly in women’s spaces for over fifty years. I have never caused a problem in women’s spaces. Supporting working people, women and minorities was always Labour’s aim. The right creates hierarchies, of wealth and of out-groups: Labour subverts them.

3. Commit to respecting trans people as their self-declared gender, and to ensure that the Labour Party is an inclusive environment for trans people.

This was one achievement of the Equality Act, which the last Labour Government enacted.

4. Accept that trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people are non-binary.

I don’t have a uterus- but I am socially and culturally a woman, and have lived as a woman since 2002. Trans inclusion makes society more tolerant of gender variance, so benefits everyone.

5. Accept that there is no material conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, and that all trans women are subject to misogyny and patriarchal oppression.

What would WPUK and their like gain if I was expelled from women’s spaces? Nothing. Trans exclusion is a symbol. We are harmless, and we are only about 0.1% of the population. 2500 children were referred to the Gender Identity Development Service in a year, out of 11.5m children in the UK, and that is for investigation- not all will be treated. That is why the hard right supports WPUK’s campaign- it sets the Left against ourselves, and diverts feminist campaigning energy to the right-wing cause of creating an out-group to be hated or despised.

6. Listen to trans comrades on issues of transphobia and transmisogyny, allowing trans people to lead the way on our own liberation.

7. Support the work of trans members and organisers within the Labour movement, including supporting motions on a local, regional and national level which are presented for the furthering of trans liberation.

8. Oppose transphobic motions which run contrary to our own party equalities policy, and support the NEC striking down such motions on this basis.

9. Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.

There was much tweeting claiming WPUK is simply a women’s rights group. The problem is, it takes no notice of any women’s rights issues, only campaigning for trans exclusion. Here’s a dissection of a speech by their founder Kiri Tunks. As for the LGB alliance, their only concern is excluding trans women. See their About page: the threats they are fighting against are “gender doctrines” (reasons people transition), pressure on lesbians to accept trans women partners, the concept of gender identity and assigned sex: a series of myths and distortions about trans people. They claim supporting my right to wee in peace is “abandon[ing] any commitment to women’s rights and the rights of [LGB] people”. Fortunately Stonewall, the main LGBT charity and campaigning organisation, and lesbian publications like DIVA support trans people.

We must be very clear about what we mean by hate: WPUK wants trans women out of the spaces we have been in for decades, as harmless as any other women. That would make my life considerably more uncomfortable. Of course you can “believe sex is real”; the problem comes when you use that to exclude trans women like me- this is personal- who are culturally women. Possibly it might be better to write about “groups which would ban trans women from women’s space,” as that would make clear that they are haters.

10. Support the expulsion from the Labour Party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views.

Transphobes started tweeting #expelme. Well, they asked for it. The “Labour Women’s Declaration” was divisive. However while they were complaining, I was campaigning.

11.Support reform of the Gender Recognition Act to improve transgender rights, as well as supporting policies which would improve trans people’s access to necessary healthcare, housing, and employment.

12. Organise against and oppose any further transphobic policy from our own party or any other.

It came up on Newsnight, where the leadership candidates were asked questions from a trans-exclusionist point of view. “Is it transphobic to talk about biological sex?” Of course it isn’t; but it is transphobic to demand that all trans women be excluded from all women’s spaces, from domestic violence services to shop changing rooms. “There might be Labour members who would feel uncomfortable about people can self-identify their gender. Would you expel them having signed this pledge?” That casts the exclusionists as ordinary people with “discomfort” and trans people as the threat. But they are haters: see this twitter thread when Marks and Spencer made plain that trans women could be in women’s changing rooms. I tried on jeans yesterday, to see if they fit, not “to get sexual kicks”. They allege no woman would be comfortable with me there and say they will never shop there again. I don’t think anyone noticed me.

Rebecca Long-Bailey: “I am a firm believer in self-identification and I want that brought into UK law.”

Emily Thornberry, long-term LGBT ally, said she does not like to talk about “hate”. Here’s her statement from her twitter feed:

On hate, see above. Not everyone attending WPUK meetings hates all trans women, but when someone gloats about us committing suicide she clearly does. Ms Thornberry says “trans women are women, trans men are men”. She wants us able to talk to each other.

Lisa Nandy: people who wilfully go out to hurt other people has no place in the Labour party. We are free to raise concerns. The bullying and discrimination are awful.

Keir Starmer said “Trans rights are human rights.” He said treating this as a political football is wrong. Of course it is. The haters turn this into a zero-sum game, but we trans women just want to live our lives in peace.

LGBT Labour have their own ten pledges for LGBT rights, including this: “2. Trans rights and reforming the Gender Recognition Act.
I will campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a self-declaration process and for the introduction of legal recognition for non-binary gender identities. I believe that trans women are women, that trans men are men, and that non-binary gender identities are valid and should be respected.
” Keir Starmer signed that. And there are Labour women standing up for women’s rights rather than seeking to persecute trans women.

Comment thread debate

Remainers are responsible for no-deal Brexit.

That argument surprised me. Could anyone believe that? It is put thus: Mrs May made a reasonable compromise deal on Leaving, but the Remainers in the House of Commons blocked it. They could have had a deal, but they sabotaged it, and no deal is the result.

Well. I disagree. I replied that Mogg’s European Research Group had sabotaged May’s hard-right, hard Leave deal, because their demands got continually more extreme. I wrote “Mogg’s little coterie” and that was his way in:

The key word in that quote is “little”. If you only read the Graun perspective on this you’d easily believe that the ERG consists of over 150 MPs. Must you be reminded that Labour who are much larger than the ERG rejected the deal just to score points and get rid of May.

It’s 55 subscribers to the ERG right now, plus one who resigned in April. More than enough to overcome May’s fragile majority.

There are always others to blame. I don’t know whether that commenter believes it, wants to put an alternative view for the joy of debate, or is a mere troll, but blaming and hating others seems the greatest harm of comment threads, even in the Guardian.

I wrote,

Nothing should be produced that is not recyclable, biodegradable or intended to be useful for a hundred years. As for experiences, what matters is relationships, which can be built in a walk in a local park, not needing a trip to another country. Wonder at the art of Egypt on the telly, not by going there. With Michael Leunig savour the “Joy of missing out”.

I was putting a position for the sake of argument. It is arguably an extreme one, hard to reach from where we are without great disruption, and without major corrections to inequality. But the criticism was poor:

-Out of curiosity: Do you have no idea what amount of pollution a steam- or internal combustion engine built 100 years ago cause? Or do you just not care? I replied that metal is recyclable. Someone said recyclable is too low a bar, we should reduce, or reuse, first.

Possibly there should be no motor vehicles other than public transport. It is not a fully reasoned argument, only a comment, which usually involves no original thought whatsoever.

I am pleased to get “Guardian Picks”, though. They get me attention, and often up votes.

Do people believe such Brexit arguments? I was not out demonstrating about the Parliamentary shutdown, though I thought of going- I needed to rest and do more self-accepting. Do we need anger and action, or more thought? Will Leavers and Remainers ever get over our Great Difference and enjoy each others’ gifts again?

Possibly I need righteous anger against Spaffer Johnson’s manoeuvrings, but only if I could do something about them, which is more than moping or commenting. I shared my friend’s story of the effects of pervasive racism and privilege, to increase awareness:

Three friends, young men, two Black and one white. They are out together having a great time when they see a white woman fall over in front of them. They want to help but the Black men hold back and the white man goes up to help, because the Black men fear the white woman will feel they are threatening and object, even be frightened and call out.

I know the Black men are wise to fear that and hold back, and a Black friend who told me of the incident knows it too; but how sad, that they should want to help a woman in need and feel unable to?

So I have shared it again. We need to be aware of these things.

And I liked the Brene Brown quote: “When someone spews something really hurtful don’t pick it up and hold it and rub it into your heart and snuggle with it and carry it around for a long time. Don’t even put energy into kicking it to the kerb. You’ve got to see it and step over it or go around it and keep on going.”

Wise advice. That’s not always my automatic reaction, but her naming the alternatives might help me see their stupidity. It helps to remember why I might “snuggle with” it- because it refreshes and tops up my introjects, which seem like reality and morality to me. See what is hurtful and damaging.

We ended the Queer Spirit festival with hundreds of us in a chain holding hands, singing

Dear friends, Queer friends
Let me tell you how I feel
You have given me such pleasure
I love you so.

Singing in the sunshine with smiles and human contact. Remember that. Hold on to it. Or dozens in a circle drumming and dozens more in the circle dancing, some of us naked. That joy. That connection. That sanity.