Note: In May 2017 I rewrote this to add a better explanation of why the soap is problematic and why the bi erasure is damaging. It was badly written before which meant that I wasn’t getting my point across.
A link to a Gay Star News article popped up on my Twitter feed with the announcement that Lush has launched a brand of soap with the words “gay is ok” on. The money raised from the sale of this product will go to global LGBT charities via the organisation AllOut. I felt really frustrated and angry with the way Lush has gone about this campaign and the way that news sites are reporting this new product. I also have concerns about who Lush have partnered with.
One reason for my frustration with this campaign is, unsurprisingly, its focus on the word gay. They could have easily put some variation of ‘LGBT is ok‘ instead. Or expanded their range to include bi, pan, trans etc. labelled soaps rather than limit themselves to an item which focuses on one and erases the rest. As of result of this limited focus all the social media relating to this campaign damages and erases too.
One of the many examples of this bi erasure can be found on their website, where they use language such as “The fight against homophobic prejudice…” and “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia”. (IDAHOT was officially changed to IDAHoBiT in 2015 to include biphobia.)
I also hate how news sites are using bi erasing language in their content too when they should know better. For example here’s the headline to the article I linked to earlier:
Lush launch #GayisOK soap bar to help scrub away homophobia
Another reason I feel frustrated with Lush is how they responded to criticisms of their campaign. After first seeing the news my friends & I pointed out their erasure on social media. The staff who replied brushed our comments aside and said that gay = LGBTQ+. No one listened, no one noticed our hurt, and no one could see the point we were making either.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I worry about who Lush have chosen to partner with. In the past I had to unsubscribe from AllOut’s communications and avoid looking at their website and social media accounts as they were so bi erasing I was being triggered after seeing them. If they are getting all the money to distribute then I fear that bi and trans organisations will receive little/less funding. And that organisations which have bi & trans erasing policies and programs will be favoured out of ignorance and discrimination.
The reason for this criticism is so that more people will benefit rather than be harmed. I am not nitpicking. Or winging for no reason. I don’t doubt or dismiss that some good work is being done here. I know this will raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity. But I also know it would be very simple and easy for Lush to do it better.
Let’s start with the smaller stuff and build up. Gay does not hold the same meaning as LGBTQ+. People need to stop using them as if they are interchangeable. Lush have missed a chance here to make a statement that all genders and sexualities are ‘ok’. Each letter in the acronym faces unique and separate forms of prejudice and discrimination which Lush haven’t covered when raising these issues. When people criticised their campaign and asked for inclusion they could have acted on it. Instead they ignored us.
Inclusion is vital and important. The latter half of one of my other blog posts lists the damage caused by biphobia (e.g. higher rates of mental health problems and violence against us). When bisexuality is erased it remains unknown. Or it’s forgotten about. It gets taken less seriously. In order to help combat biphobia we need visibility and representation too. Our health and well-being matters too. Studies have shown that there are more bisexuals than gay and lesbian people. (Again, sources can be found listed in the other post.) Yet we receive a tiny fraction of the funding put towards ‘LGBT’ causes. (More about the damage created by bi erasing charities and organisations can be found in this post here.)
So that’s why I’m justifiably angry and frustrated. What Lush has done is a problem. And now I have the urge to throw all my toiletries at them and yell “Listen to us. We exist!”