During Pride month, GLAAD and American Apparel attempted to
sell show some LGBT love with a new campaign advertising AA’s line of Legalize Gay shirts. But their efforts have met with an unexpected backlash from Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transgender & Transsexual People (MAGNET), a small group that describes itself as “anti-defamation organization dedicated to educating the media about transsexual, transgender and intersex issues.”
Ads for the shirts featured transgender model Isis King, best known for her turn on America’s Next Top Model , in a “Gay O.K.” T-shirt. But the fact that King isn’t gay, but rather a heterosexual trans woman, rubs MAGNET the wrong way. “The real issue isn’t if a particular model profits by promoting ‘Legalize Gay’ tees,” MAGNET member Ashley Love told The Advocate, “it’s the confusion sent to society by feeding the already-widespread misconception that women of transsexual history are really ‘gay’ men in dresses. The public is misled to perceive ‘gay’ as an umbrella term which includes transsexualism.”
Although Love is proud of King as one of the first transgender models to be featured in a national campaign, she and MAGNET have launched a boycott against the shirts and American Apparel. A Facebook group, “Boycott GLAAD’s & AA’s Pride T-Shirts: ‘Transsexual’ will NOT be Censored” currently has less than 200 members.
For her part, King calls MAGNET”S outrage “absurd and ridiculous,” and says the group is completely missing the message of her involvement: “The T-shirt doesn’t say I am personally gay. [It] simply says gay is O.K., meaning that I—as an ally and a public figure—am telling other people that there is nothing wrong with gay people. I’m not misinformed and I know who I am. This design empowers my friends in the gay community, and I’d like to see more allies wear this shirt.”
GLAAD’s communications director, Rich Ferraro, sides with King, noting how many members of the trans community have “shared how proud they are that a positive story about a model—who happens to be a transgender woman of color—was able to reach so many through GLAAD’s work to publicize her participation.”
Love hopes GLAAD will be more trans-inclusive in future fashion efforts. “A rose is still a rose, period—not a sub-rose, not a second-class rose, not a rose impersonator,” she says. “Why didn’t GLAAD also advocate for ‘Legalize Transsexualism’? Being an ‘ally’ goes both ways.”
Does MAGNET have a point or are they just getting hung up on semantics?