There’s a lot of ways to advertise data plans, I’m sure. Advertising is plainly not my thing, but I’ve seen enough of it to be well aware that there are many creative ways to sell just about anything. Which is why I’m not certain why Meteor decided to do what they did. When you’ve a world of possibilities to choose from, why would it seem like a good idea to mock marginalised groups of people? I can’t say I get it.
Here’s the bit, by the way, where I let you know that there isn’t a link to an ad on this post because I have no intention of either sending them any more traffic, or of littering this corner of the web with transphobic nonsense. That’s not how I roll. However, a quick synopsis: the ad is about things you don’t have to do to get online on your phone. Like biking after a wifi-enabled bus. Or sneaking around your neighbour’s garden to steal their connection. Or going to your local trans and cross-dressing friendly bar.
What’s so funny?
Because, of course, there’s no way that a person would want to be in a place like that. And a place like that is almost empty, is populated by dour-looking queens who only perk up with a predatory smile when an internet-seeking innocent comes through the door, and whose patrons manage simultaneously to be caked in several layers of makeup and to have a strangely ubiquitous five o’clock shadow.
This might be the point where you tell me that I can’t take an innocent joke. If that’s the case, then this is the point where I tell you that I am entirely capable of taking a joke, as long as it’s funny. This isn’t funny. It plays to tired, pathetic stereotypes that I’ve heard too many times already. And it’s not innocent.
Have you ever heard of trans panic? Based on the idea that trans people are somehow deceitful and predatory, the trans panic defense is something that’s been used successfully in court, time and time again, by people who have assaulted and killed trans people. An ‘innocent’ cis (‘not trans’) person is ‘tricked’ into having sexual contact- or even being attracted to- someone they later find out to be trans. The trauma of this sends them into a murderous rage. They get off lightly. This happens.
And these things happen because our society sees trans people, particularly trans women, as less than cis people. As deceivers. As predatory. As somehow fake and overcompensating and pathetic at the same time. And these ideas, and their widespread acceptance, make life a hell of a lot more dangerous for people who are or are perceived to be trans.
Let’s get personal. I can talk about statistics or social phenomena all day. But social phenomena and statistics are things which describe real lives.
Many people who I love- dear friends, people I consider family, my gorgeous partner- are trans. People I love have been attacked, forced out of jobs, denied housing, and been driven to suicidal ideation and self-harm. While this ad is one little thing, it is a piece in a massive puzzle that combines to make a world where trans people are looked down on, villified, and victimised. The world is a more dangerous place for people I love because of things like this advertisement.
And I’m sick of it. I’m sick of knowing that I have to worry more about the people I love who are trans. I’m sick of a world that says that my partner isn’t someone worth desiring or loving, that says that people like her are deceptive by their very nature, that she is somehow less of a person than me. It chills me to think of how lucky my loved ones who are trans are to not be one of the too-many people who have taken their own lives because of transphobia and cissexism. It’s not a joke when the world is made more dangerous.
While this ad doesn’t directly advocate violence against trans people, it plays to precisely the same caricatures and stereotypes that do just that. And because Meteor don’t seem to see trans lives as important and real, it makes a joke out of them.
Until the day when the world is every bit as safe, warm and welcoming for trans people as it is for cis ones, I’m not going to get that joke.
Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) seeks to improve conditions and advance the rights and equality of trans* people and their families. Contact them online or +353 1 873 3575
To read their press release on this ad click here