COLLECTIVE STATEMENT:

Content Warning: transphobia, biphobia, mentions of gender dysphoria, transition surgery, gaslighting, manipulation and aggression

In the past week, 10 staff members from the Happy Maki Brighton store, have quit over the Happy Maki owner, Anna Macdonald’s transphobic beliefs, which she openly expressed in an email to a trans individual who approached the company asking for support with surgery. Happy Maki’s owner also has biphobic beliefs, which she had voiced to staff. Anna’s email regarding her transphobic views stated:

“I'm afraid I can't help you out with this fundraising as it (transition surgery) is not inline with my beliefs/ what I feel would help people the most who are in your position …  From the research I have done, I believe the gender dysphoria is due to spirits and spirit over-cloaking.  I didn't believe in spirits until recently so I get that it probably a bit out there but I have been shocked and a bit scared about what I have read and how easy it is for them to control and manipulate people's thoughts and feelings.”

An impromptu meeting was arranged so the assistant manager could mediate a conversation between the owner and staff to discuss this. The owner described it as being “confronted against her free will”. Staff didn’t approach the discussion violently, and raised their concerns pushing with facts and statements, rather than emotion and anger. Free speech was used to exempt her beliefs and accused staff of faith discrimination. The owner has a pattern of gaslighting staff, saying they are aggressive when they raise genuine concerns in the work environment. These beliefs come from her involvement in the organisation, The Divine Truth, which you can research more on via this link: https://www.divinetruth.com.

Since the meeting, through an email to the trans individual and a private video to staff, the owner has made it clear that she still holds the same beliefs, further denied claims of transphobia and biphobia, and has taken no accountability for her harmful remarks and actions.

The owner gave her staff under 21 hours to decide whether or not they’d like to continue working for the company, and make it clear that no response within that timeframe would result in their dismissal of employment with Happy Maki. She gave staff 3 options: to continue working, to stop working immediately and breach their contract, or to stop working after a 4 week notice period. She didn’t give the same urgency to address her transphobic comments as she did with expecting her staff to make decisions that impact their social security. The owner still hasn’t responded to the individual’s email, which was sent 5 days ago asking how she would take accountability and learn and grow from the situation.

There have been other staff issues at Happy Maki, such as no real contracts for the majority of staff who are on zero hour ‘contracts’, issues around holiday pay, sick pay and furlough. Staff have experienced severe anxiety outside of the workplace due to this.

The owner has also theorized that bisexuality only exists as a result of unresolved trauma, which is invalidating towards peoples’ experiences and identities and is a belief she has openly expressed to staff in the workplace; this belief is another teaching of The Divine Truth.

It wouldn’t feel effective to have Happy Maki or the owner be ‘cancelled’. It would be for the best if she can learn and understand why it was a transphobic, damaging thing to say.

We ask Anna MacDonald to take accountability and responsibility for her transphobic and biphobic actions.

Support us by:

1) Writing to Anna MacDonald (anna@happymaki.co.uk) asking for accountability and an apology.

2) Repost and share this to give awareness of the situation.

We write this statement in solidarity with all LGBTQ+ people who may also fall victim to Anna’s beliefs, whether they are future staff or customers. We don’t stand for a company quietly capitalising from these communities whilst knowing the owner’s views conflict with their rights. There are many other important individual issues that have affected staff, but we write this to protect our community and be as transparent as we can; so, fully informed, you can make the decision as to whether you want to continue supporting this company with the full knowledge of what it stands for.

Written collectively by ex-Happy Maki staff and the trans individual involved.

Below are links to the individuals fundraising account and other LGBTQ+ organisations you can support:

http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/professionals/training

https://www.allsortsyouth.org.uk/

https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/

https://www.mindout.org.uk/donate/

https://www.switchboard.org.uk/

https://www.navigatebrighton.co.uk/