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High street retailer Lush has been accused of encouraging young girls to ‘mutilate’ their bodies after launching a controversial scheme allowing customers to collect ‘chest binders’ in store.
In exchange for a £7 donation to a trans outreach organisation, shoppers can order a chest binder online then collect the item at the Lush branch in Paddington, central London.
A breast or chest binder is an item of clothing similar to an extra tight sports bra or tank top that is used by transgender and non-binary people to compress breast tissue and give the appearance of a flat chest.
The scheme is run in collaboration with G(end)er Swap, a UK outreach organisation that helps trans and ‘gender non-conforming’ people access clothes.
It has sparked a backlash from customers who warned of the health risks associated with breast binding, and questioned whether children would be allowed to collect a breast binder without parental consent.
One posted: ‘This is utterly horrendous marketing this to young girls to mutilate their bodies with. There’s nothing wrong with their healthy bodies.’
Age verification is not carried out as part of the online order process. It is not known whether a customer’s age is verified on collection.
In exchange for a £7 charity donation, shoppers can order a breast binder online then collect the item at the Lush branch in Paddington, central London, pictured in file image
MailOnline has contacted Lush and G(end)er Swap for comment.
One customer posted in response to the Instagram announcement: ‘Is Lush in the business of selling self harm now? How profitable is that? Along with the safeguarding issues does this fit your corporate image?’
Another wrote: ‘Binders can be dangerous and unhealthy. This is massively inappropriate.’
A third added: ‘This is promoting self harm amongst confused young girls. This should be stopped immediately.’
Others threatened to boycott the store, with one writing: ‘This is disgraceful. I will no longer purchase anything from you if you are promoting this self-harm to young, healthy bodies. Shame on you!!’
However some shoppers praised Lush for the collaboration, noting it is important to make breast binders available at an affordable price available to people with body dysmorphia.
One commented: ‘This is such an incredible service!! Here’s hoping more shops are able to join in supporting our LGBTQ+ community.’
A second added: ‘Thanks for providing an affordable way to get binders which can be a huge help to those really struggling with gender dysphoria.’
Responding to the criticism, another posted: ‘Literally what are y’all so mad about? This is not a service for your but clearly people who want it. No one’s telling you to get a binder CHILL and let people live how they wanna live it’s really that simple.’
Controversial: Customers warned of the health risks associated with breast binding, and questioned whether children would be allow to collect a breast binder without parental consent. Others praised the scheme for making binders accessible
The potential health risks associated with breast binding are well documented.
A 2008 NHS England publication noted breast binders should only be used for short periods of time because they ‘may cause back problems’ and can distort breast tissue, which could affect any future surgery to remove the breasts.
The advice also noted binders are ‘not appropriate’ for ‘heavy-breasted’ women.
A 2017 study led by Sarah Peitzmeier of the University of Michigan and published in the journal Culture, Health and Sexuality, observed almost 9 in 10 people experienced at least one negative effect from binding, and 8 out of 10 felt that it was important to discuss binding with a healthcare provider. Only 30 per cent sought medical attention for binding-related health concerns.
A breast or chest binder is an item of clothing similar to an extra tight sports bra or tank top that is used by transgender and non-binary people to compress breast tissue and give the appearance of a flat chest. Pictured, an example of a chest binder available online
The Lush x G(end)er Swap online order form gives a series of dropdown boxes allowing customers to choose their preferred colour and size.
They can also choose between two different styles: either ‘half binder’, which covers just the upper part of the torso, or ‘tank’, which is shaped like a vest.
On collection, customers are asked to make a minimum £7 donation to G(end)er Swap in order to complete the transaction.
Customers are asked for their preferred pronouns on the order form, but not their date of birth.
The issue of consent with regards to gender reassignment and transitioning remains hotly debated.
Children under 16 can take puberty blockers without their parents’ consent after the Court of Appeal overturned landmark ruling against an NHS gender clinic.
In an historic ruling last December, the High Court ruled that children under 16 with gender dysphoria could only consent to the use of hormone-blocking treatments if they understood the ‘immediate and long-term consequences’.
The judges said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that a child aged 13 or under would be able to consent to the treatment, and that it was ‘doubtful’ that a child of 14 or 15 would understand the consequences.
But the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children, brought an appeal against the ruling in June.
In a judgment in September, the Court of Appeal said it was inappropriate for the High Court to give the guidance, finding doctors should instead exercise judgment about whether their patients can properly consent.