Justice

This Transphobic Caitlyn Jenner Billboard Has the Internet in a Fury

December 4th 2015

By:
Aron Macarow

Just when we thought we had seen enough with the tasteless Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costumes earlier this year, a New Zealand sign company thought they could spread Christmas cheer by similarly targeting the transgender reality star and former Olympian.

The billboard featuring Jenner appeared this week in Auckland from Cranium Signage. It included a Photoshopped image of Jenner wearing a Santa hat, taken from her Vanity Fair cover, along with the message, "I hope your sack is fuller than mine this year. Merry Christmas from Cranium."

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Transphobia Cranium Signage Caitlyn Jenner billboard

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Reactions on social media were mixed. However, the billboard prompted a strong response from local trans community members and allies, who mounted a successful campaign to have the sign removed. The effort was spearheaded by Rebecca Jones, a mother whose 9-year-old son is transgender.

"[T]here are plenty who are feeling very bad about it," Jones told ATTN:. "[I]t makes them feel so awful knowing that people weren't just hating on Caitlyn - they were hating on every transgender person."

Jones pointed to higher suicide rate among trans youth, suggesting that Cranium's sign reinforced that transgender people could be ridiculed and might also contribute to anti-trans violence. According to one study, 20 percent of trans high schoolers in the country may have attempted suicide, while nearly half have tried to harm themselves. Another survey suggests that over 30 percent of LGB youth have attempted suicide.

"I want things to be safer for my son when he gets older," said Jones of her effort to have the billboard taken down.

RainbowYOUTH, a New Zealand organization that supports LGBT kids, agrees.

"These incidents reinforce the negative stereotypes that organizations like RainbowYOUTH and the trans community have been fighting to dispel for years [...] [by] reducing someone to their genitalia," RainbowYOUTH general manager Duncan Matthews told ATTN:.

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Although Cranium Signage was quick to remove the billboard following the outcry, their initial apology wasn't exactly remorseful. Company owner Phillip Garratt also referred to the negative responses as "hate mail" on social media:

Cranium response to Caitlyn Jenner billboard critics on Facebook.

Following further backlash though, Cranium took to Facebook to apologize and state that Garratt had donated to RainbowYOUTH in response. (The organization confirmed receipt of the $1000 donation, but Cranium has not yet responded to a request for comment.)

Although everyone ATTN: spoke with said that incidents like this are uncommon in New Zealand — Matthews called it "very atypical" — Matthews and Jones both highlighted that the billboard showed how far the country still has to go to be welcoming to the trans and gender-variant community. Jones also expressed hopes that Cranium will think before they act next time, "They should do a bit of research into the amount of transgender people that commit suicide and know that their billboard could easily have contributed to another."

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