Inside Happy Maki Brighton, where 10 employees quit over owner Anna MacDonald’s “transphobic” and “biphobic” beliefs. (Google Maps)
Staff at vegan sushi bar Happy Maki in Brighton have walked out after it emerged the owner said transgender people are “influenced by spirits”.
At least 10 workers have quit en masse – half the workforce of Happy Maki Brighton, in Pool Valley – after owner Anna MacDonald claimed that gender dysphoria “is due to spirits and spirit over-cloaking”.
MacDonald’s former employees accuse her of having “openly expressed her transphobic beliefs” and also of holding “biphobic beliefs” that she had “voiced to staff”.
“These beliefs come from her involvement in the organisation, The Divine Truth,” the workers claim. “[MacDonald] has also theorised 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.”
According to its listing on Google, Happy Maki Brighton is “women-led” and “LGBTQ-friendly”.
MacDonald made the comments about trans people being influenced by spirits after being sent the crowdfunding page of a trans person who works locally, who was asking for financial donations to get gender-affirming surgery.
In her email reply to the trans person, MacDonald said: “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.
“I have a lot of compassion for anyone who finds themselves feeling not right in their own skin/bodies. From the research I have done, I believe that gender dysphoria is due to spirits and spirit over-cloaking.
“I didn’t believe in spirits until recently so I get that it’s 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.”
After her email was shown to staff by the trans individual, an “impromptu meeting was arranged so the assistant manager could mediate a conversation between the owner and staff to discuss this”, the workers said in a collective statement. “The owner described it as being ‘confronted against her free will’.”
The statement continues: “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 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.”
In a long statement on the Happy Maki Brighton website, MacDonald added said the behaviour of her former employees constituted a “modern-day with hunt”.
MacDonald said that transgender people’s experience “poses some big questions” and “psychologists, geneticists and spiritualists” are “all trying to figure out what is going on”.
She said: “I have done a lot of research into spirits, spirits are just people who have died, no demons, no entities just people.
“They can and do affect everyone in different ways, positively and negatively and to varying degrees and this depends on the existing feelings we have inside of us and how sensitive we are.
“I feel I have seen enough evidence to know all of this as fact.”
Speaking to The Argus, MacDonald said: “My beliefs are my own and until they affect the way we treat people in store or the service we are providing then they are irrelevant.”