Costa Coffee has defended its decision to include a transgender person with mastectomy scars in a cartoon mural on one of its vans.
The UK’s largest coffee chain was accused on Monday of glamourising “complex and dangerous surgery” after a photograph of the branding was shared on social media.
Showing only one character of what Costa Coffee said was a wider mural, the image shows a cartoon surfer holding a coffee cup and wearing yellow swimming shorts, with two scars on their chest.
On Tuesday, the company stood by its desicion to use the image, saying it “showcases and celebrates inclusivity” and was created as part of a mural for last year’s Pride Month.
A Costa Coffee spokesperson said: “At Costa Coffee, we celebrate the diversity of our customers, team members and partners.
“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.”
Speaking to Talk TV, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle expressed his support for the mural celebrating “the diversity of how people live and not how we want people to live in a perfect world”.
When challenged by presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer, he added: “The mural does not go into details about the motivation of the person who is depicted like that at all.
“We don’t know. All we know is the mural celebrates the diversity of people and people’s body.
“Lots of people make adjustments to their breasts and other parts of their body because they are unhappy with them.
“I think it’s rather judgemental to be forcing your view of what somebody’s body should look like.
“If you don’t want to go to Costa as well, I think that’s your choice as well and that’s fine.”
Author Ugla Stefania also stood up for the mural, tweeting: “Saw Costa was trending. Turned out it’s because they have an illustration of a trans masc person and all the bigots are losing their minds about trans people existing.
“Great advertisement for Costa really. Thanks everyone, it’s a lovely illustration.”
The trans rights campaigner added: “The people in the comments calling consensual surgeries ‘mutilation’ are just showing their disrespect to actual survivors of genital mutilation - intersex people, cis women and others assigned female at birth suffer those every day all across the world. You should be ashamed.”
The debate took off after a picture of the Costa van was posted onto Twitter by writer James Esses, a former Childline volunteer.
Tweeting the coffee chain, he said: “Could you kindly explain why you are glorifying irreversible surgery performed on healthy breasts of women for a mental health condition?”
Failed London mayoral candidate Laurence Fox criticised Costa Coffee, accusing it of “promoting the mutilation” of young people’s bodies.
The Reclaim Party candidate also called for the chain’s 13,450 outlets to be “boycotted out of existence”.
Others further described the move as “crass and irresponsible” with further calls on social media to boycott the firm.
For Women Scotland raised concerns for women who have suffered breast cancer, saying it might be “distressing” and “offensive”.
The organisation asked Costa Coffee if it understands how the “glorification and promotion of medically unnecessary mastectomies could be distressing and offensive to women who have suffered breast cancer”.
Tanya Carter, spokesperson for child safeguarding campaign group Safe Schools Alliance, told the MailOnline: ‘It’s almost unbelievable that Costa would do something so crass and irresponsible as to use this image.”
While Paul ‘@wrxmanpaul’, who describes himself on Twitter as an activist for LGBT, equality and diversity, was among those who quipped back at Esses, in support of the branding.
“Trans people lives and choices is not your concern,” he wrote.
“Gender affirming care is a personal choice and is a long process to be accepted for surgery,” he commented.”
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