A digital poster created by Pride Amsterdam is sparking backlash for featuring a trans-identified female model with a significant amount of of self-mutilation scars on her arms.
Photos of the advertisement began circulating on social media last week, showing a digital information stand in the iconic libertine city displaying the poster, which was part of the “My Gender, My Pride” campaign.
The campaign was launched as part of the wider Pride parade celebrations held annually from July 30 to August 7, which often take on a different theme every year.
Jason Bhugwandass, the subject of the digital poster, is one of 10 Ambassadors selected by Pride Amsterdam to represent the theme of the campaign. In the photo, Bhugwandass appears topless, displaying ‘gender affirming’ mastectomy scars and a stuffed dog perched on her shoulder.
But it was the trail of jagged self-harm marks from wrist-to-shoulder that sparked the most concern.
The digital poster invites passersby to scan a QR code and watch a video created by Pride Amsterdam featuring an interview with Bhugwandass. In the video, Bhugwandass explains she takes a stuffed dog with her everywhere she goes in order to self-soothe.
Bhugwandass, 23, had been featured in a documentary released at the Netherlands International Documentary Film Festival in 2021. The hour-long film, titled ‘Jason,’ revealed Bhugwandass had been the victim of extreme domestic violence as a child. A profile on Bhugwandass published in RTL Niews in January adds that Bhugwandass was also abused by “multiple neighbors” throughout her youth.
At age 16, Bhugwandass was diagnosed with PTSD and housed in five locked youth treatment facilities over the course of one year due to repeated suicide attempts and depression. While in the facilities, Bhugwandass was often placed in solitary confinement, and experienced additional emotional trauma.
While the image of the billboard was circulated by many accounts, it wracked up mass attention after popular British feminist influencer Aja posted it to her Twitter on July 28.
“A woman who clearly spent years engaging in self-harm on her arms is now being celebrated because she has moved her self harming on to her chest,” Aja wrote, “This [message] is extremely dangerous.. its Pro-Ana the 2022 version.”
Pro-Ana, a shortened version of “pro-anorexia,” is a reference to an online subculture popularized by Tumblr which glorified eating disorders and self-harm. The subculture gained notoriety in the mid-2000s, where young girls flocked to post and circulate “thinspiration” on their blogs in an attempt to encourage each other to take on fad-diets and shed as much weight as possible.
Aja’s tweet wracked up almost 5,000 ‘likes’ as of this article’s writing, and over 450 primarily furious replies to the post were logged from feminists and those who have survived self-harm.
“I honestly cannot believe this exists,” user @stemfemm wrote in response to Aja, “The self-inflicted scars and the top surgery scars are one in the same. Self hatred and self loathing, now used to market trendy plastic surgeries to help you run further from yourself.”
This makes me feel real grief. I don’t want my kids thinking this is a goal to reach. This is self harm idealisation.— Tutting Maud (@TuttingM) July 28, 2022
I just want to sit with this young one and listen to what is going on.
This is not the firm time a trans-identified female has been used to advertise the benefits of ‘gender affirming’ surgeries while also appearing to have engaged in significant amount of self-harm prior to the procedure.
In December of 2021, an image from infamous gender surgeon Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher began to circulate on social media, showing an image of one of her clients she had posted to Facebook.
The female who had been given a double-mastectomy was similarly sporting a disturbing number of self-harm scars on her stomach and arms.
The outrage regarding the Pride Amsterdam billboard came just one day after England’s National Health Service announced that the country’s only pediatric gender identity clinic would be closing its doors. The news followed a damning investigation into the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) that was released in March of this year.
The review was the result of multiple whistleblowers coming forward with concerns about the clinic and its minor patients. Some said they felt Tavistock was engaging in gay conversion therapy for pursuing heavy-handed gender-based solutions, as well as often ignoring co-morbidities in young patients — such as autism or mental health concerns.
Of note, the review’s interim report pointed to a 2011 study which found that up to 10% of young people being referred for gender identity services in the Netherlands were on the autism spectrum.
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