'Revolutionary' trans rights campaign aims to educate Lush cosmetics customers
The Vancouver-based company is partnering with non-profits to help customers become better allies to transgender people.
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Walking past a Lush store normally means being greeted by a colourful jolt and a sneak-attack of fragrances. But if you venture inside or glance at the window display these days, you'll be greeted by signs, large and small, throughout the store that share the stories of trans people, and their ongoing struggle to access dignity and respect.
"There are people who wish I didn't exist," reads one such sign.
From now until Feb. 28, Vancouver-based cosmetics company Lush, in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, is handing out booklets on trans allyship and has trained its retail staff to help educate customers on how to be respectful and inclusive of trans and gender-binary people.
It’s a gutsy move, especially considering the campaign has been launched not only in Canada but the more socially-conservative United States as well.
Jeremy Dias, director of the Toronto-based Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, said the campaign’s power lies in its call to action. Dias, who uses the gender pronoun ‘they,’ helped design the campaign.
“It's not even just a little cool. It's revolutionary,” they said. “This (campaign) is huge because it's not just about putting up the rainbow flag, but fundamentally saying we need to shift the behaviours of our staff and our customers, right?”
“There are simple things that the average Canadian needs to know,” Dias said. “Like respecting peoples’ pronouns, like asking questions — or not asking questions and Googling it, because certain questions (such as asking whether someone has had gender-affirming surgery) are freakin' inappropriate.”
Dias said the campaign is timely because it comes less than a year after the Canadian federal government made it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or gender expression.
“We can have all the rights on paper but if we don't have the social understanding of what those rights translate into on a day-to-day basis then how do we achieve the goals (of equality and inclusion)?” Dias said.
The campaign has been rolled out in all 53 of Lush’s Canadian stores, as well as its 197 retail locations in the United States, including in North Carolina, where controversial legislation — the “bathroom bill” — has tried to stop trans people from using the washroom or change room of their choice.
In an effort to help others understand the discrimination trans people face, Lush offered its trans employees the opportunity to share their experiences anonymously. Parts of their stories have been printed on the signs on display in Lush’s storefront windows across the continent.
Lush’s shelves are also stocked with pink and blue heart-shaped bath-bombs, of which the expected $450,000 worth of sales will be divvied up amongst several non-profits, including Vancouver’s Out in Schools.
Brandon Yan, Out in School’s education director, said his organization has provided Lush employees with trans awareness workshops, and on Saturday was invited into the store to help educate customers on the campaign.
“They didn’t just throw up some banners and put out some product, but what they did was actually create resources,” he said, referring to the booklets.
Yan said the campaign was created with humility, and consulted with Out in Schools early on.
“They (Lush) didn’t come to us saying, ‘Hey, we know everything, and we’re going to sell a bunch of products because we believe in trans rights.’ It was more like, ‘Hey we’re consulting with staff and they think this is an important issue to take on right now.’”
Behind the public-facing campaign, the company is also consulting closely with its transgender and non-binary employees to provide them with better support, and everyone at the company — not just the customer-service staff — have been educated on the campaign.