We weren’t the only ones who questioned the transphobic potential of this ad against the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. Sprint pulled the ad after receiving complaints including a letter from REC Founder Michi Eyre (a transgender person herself) who issued an open letter explaining why she found the ad “inappropriate”:
The transgender community has recently been working towards obtaining civil rights at the state level in Maryland, Nevada and Connecticut. In addition, the GLBT community is fighting legislation in Maine that would redefine public accommodation protections to biological sex. In these states, the primary fear expressed by opponents to transgender rights is the infamous “man in a dress”.
The advertisement encourages readers to “Tell Congress to help stop AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile.” This is the same Congress who we are trying to get to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would add federal regulations that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The opposition of ENDA also do not want “men in dresses” working for their companies.
While we agree, the depiction of this specific model in this specific dress does not look right, it does create shock and fear and sends the message “people born of one biological sex and wearing the clothes of the other biological sex is wrong.” This is a message that we have been fighting.
Eyre’s letter really clarifies the debate over the image. Several Queerty commenters wondered whether any images of men in dresses, even drag queens, were inherently transphobic. Going by her letter, the bigger issue has to do with the widespread nature of the image in light of ongoing trans rights battles. In short, it’s still OK to laugh at Dame Edna.