Thailand’s transgender residents are displeased with Swedish furniture retailer Ikea because of a new ad they say is “disparaging” and “disrespectful” to their way of life.
The commercial — titled “Luem Aeb,” or “Forgot to Deceive” — began running on YouTube and Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain system in late December.
In the ad, a middle-aged man shops in an Ikea store with his long-haired, willowy, minidress-wearing partner. The partner is chatting in a sweet, high voice when she suddenly lets out a low-pitched exclamation upon seeing the discount section.
Eventually, when the partner starts shouldering some heavy boxes, the man turns tail and runs.
In Thailand, transgender or effeminate gay men are often referred to as kathoey, or ladyboys.
In an open letter to Ikea, the Thai Transgender Alliance lambasted the ad as “a parody of a weirdo” that “perpetuates a misunderstanding of transgenderism as a ‘deceitful and deviant lifestyle.’ ” The video is “negative and stereogypical in nature,” according to the group, which also called it a “gross violation of human rights and freedom of expression.”
“Media representation … should evolve and become as diverse as the community those images strive to reflect,” the group wrote. Otherwise, it warned, it could perpetuate attitudes toward the transgender population that “lead to violence and various forms of abuses such as sexual harassment.”
The group is demanding an official statement from Ikea.