Costa Coffee, the UK’s largest coffee chain, has enraged bigots over a single cartoon trans surfer as part of a mural on their express vans. But where other corporations have folded in the face of right-wing backlash and threats of boycotts, Costa Coffee has issued a statement standing by their decision.
The mural shows a blissful blue-haired character shirtless on a surfboard, nonchalantly bearing their top surgery scars. But what seems to have agitated TERFs the most is just how happy the character is. Maya Forstarter, who (partly thanks to JK Rowling) has emerged as a leader of the “gender critical” movement, characterized the cartoon as “glamorizing self-harm.” In fact, leading major medical institutions have repeatedly stood behind gender-affirming care as legitimate and life-saving medical procedures.
After photos of the mural went viral, the hashtag #BoycottCostaCoffee was soon trending on Twitter. In response to the backlash, Costa Coffee issued a statement to The Times: “At Costa Coffee, we celebrate the diversity of our customers, team members and partners.
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“We want everyone that interacts with us to experience the inclusive environment that we create, to encourage people to feel welcomed, free and unashamedly proud to be themselves. The mural, in its entirety, showcases and celebrates inclusivity.”
Although this past Pride has reiterated just how fair-weather corporate LGBTQ+ advocacy really is, Costa Coffee’s response contrasts sharply with other corporations. This year, Target, Bud Light and the LA Dodgers all caved to conservative backlash over Pride campaigns. Costa Coffee has also regularly engaged in a Pride Month fundraising partnership with Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, raising more than £130,000 since 2019.
“For many LGBTQIA+ people living in the UK there are still many challenges and fears to be faced on a daily basis,” Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline said in a statement last year. “Each year Switchboard has more than 15,000 conversations with people in need of someone to talk to. Costa Coffee shares our belief that everyone should feel comfortable to be their true self, whether in the workplace or elsewhere, and we are incredibly excited to partner with them to raise funds to help us continue our work.”