An advertisement for a popular cellphone network in Ireland has been heavily criticized as being transphobic and promoting stereotypes of transgender people.
The advertisement depicts a young man dancing with a drag artist in order to avail himself of the bar's free Wi-Fi. When he realizes that the cellphone network Meteor offers a free Internet package, the young man stops dancing and leaves the bar, while the drag queen spots another unassuming entrant to the bar.
The advertisement has been branded as "encouraging a cheap laugh at the expense of trans people" by TENI, the Transgender Equality Network in Ireland.
TENI director Broden Giambrone commented, "Ireland's trans community should not be used for cheap laughs. In a recent health survey, 40% of trans people in Ireland had attempted suicide at least once. The figures are shocking." A recent study by TENI and partners in the UK also showed that 78 percent of transgender people in Ireland have considered suicide.
When I spoke with Giambrone, he added:
TENI launched this Twitter campaign because we had exhausted all our options. Over the last two months the trans community has been highlighting the offensive nature of the advertisement directly to Meteor, Eircom [the Irish telecommunications company of which Meteor is a subsidiary] and the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland and nothing changed. We felt it was time to put some public pressure on Meteor.
The advertisement is being screened on terrestrial and cable television, as well as being shown during trailers in cinemas across Ireland.
TENI are encouraging Twitter users to use the hashtag #MeteorShame to speak their mind about the advertisement. Hundreds of people have already voiced their complaints and opinions online, and Giambrone stated that that amount of support for TENI's campaign has been "overwhelming."
"Laughing at people is not big, it's not funny and it won't make me buy a phone," Clodagh Leonard tweeted. "Have some respect for your customers."
Twitter user @CatMcGrath also tweeted, "Exploitation and ridicule of a population vulnerable to hatred and violence is not good enough."
I attempted to contact Eircom's Director of Corporate Affairs, but they could not be reached to comment for this piece. However, Meteor's public relations team tweeted in August, "We used professional drag artists in our ad, this was certainly not intended to cause offense."
Previously, TENI succeeded in banning an advertisement made by bookmakers Paddy Power that encouraged viewers to distinguish transgender women from other women.