I’ve blogged before about how much I adore LUSH. They’re a company which combines all the best parts of beauty and activism into a single business credo. Their products actually work as well, and my skin, hair, and teeth have never looked lovelier since being introduced to LUSH.
When I heard they were releasing some new perfumes, I had a literal little leap of joy. Their perfumes are the only ones I’ve ever encountered which are non-irritating to my skin and my olfactory senses. I looked on the website to see what new clever names and scents they had cooked up, and was in for a bewildering surprise. One of the perfumes is named… Ladyboy.
Not familiar with the term? Also known as Kathoey, they’re MtF trans women, most commonly associated with Thailand, but found all across Southeast Asia. I was a bit bewildered by the usage of the name, thinking maybe that they had incorporated Thai scents (lemongrass?) into it somehow, and then I read the description of the perfume: “Some say it smells a little like banana, LUSH perfumer Mark says ‘The banana it’s some kind of joke.'”
Oh, I get it! Har de har har. I’m kind of hoping that my interpretation of the “joke” is way off base, but I am getting increasingly annoyed. Now, the term “ladyboy” is culture-specific, and I don’t happen to know any Southeast Asian trans women who could offer their opinion on whether or not this perfume name is something to be bewildered about. I know too little about Southeast Asian queer culture to make a comment on whether or not the term itself is offensive in its original cultural context.
As far as I know though, LUSH doesn’t have any branches in Thailand (Click here for a list of countries where LUSH has stores) so I’m assuming that this perfume is meant to be marketed to people in the countries where they do have stores. In North America, “ladyboys” are often used as the punchline in a transphobic joke; it seems to be some unwritten law in Hollywood that if there’s a scene in Thailand in the movie, you have to insert at least two ham fisted jokes about someone being sexually involved with a “ladyboy” and laughing at the double-entendre in “Bangkok”. So in this context, it’s fishy, especially with that stupid crack about the banana.
I’m hoping I’m just reading too much into this, and that LUSH didn’t mean to make trans folk the butt of a joke in the name of their new perfume. The other perfumes are given cute and creative names, but this one is just bizarre and offensive. I’m going to write to the company to ask them about this, because it’s a weird blotch on their otherwise excellent record of quality products and social activism.