Transphobic ad campaign puts gender anxiety on full display

Ad with young girl pictured reads please dont confuse me

A really disturbing and transphobic advertisement showed up in Canada’s National Post the other day, pictured above. I won’t link to their website because they don’t deserve the traffic, but suffice to say it has “stop corrupting children” in the title. Because as we all know, trans folk, gender non-conforming people and allies are all viscous baby-haters who hope to corrupt children with their message of “love yourself for who you are” and “express yourself freely” and “you don’t have to be something you’re not”. Scaaaaarryyyy .

The paper has since apologized, stating that it did not follow its own “procedures in place for vetting the content of advertising, especially advocacy advertising…intended to ensure that such ads meet a standard of tone and respect that is consistent with furthering constructive dialogue about important public policy issues” and pledging not to run the ad again.

That’s a good start, but some of the damage has already been done. Sponsored by the Institute for Canadian Values, the ad campaign is in direct response to a seemingly progressive and comprehensive sexuality education curriculum adopted by the Toronto District School Board for 2011. The curriculum has been causing controversy for awhile now, ostensibly since it purports to give Ontario elementary school children a more detailed sex education that begins in earlier grades. But this ad in particular is reacting to the part of the new curriculum that will teach children between junior kindergarten and Grade 3 about trans issues. (The revised curriculum will also promote tolerance and diversity, and teach children about “invisible differences” such as sexual orientation and gender identity.)

The new curriculum sounds rad, and I’m frustrated that it took this hateful ad and the ensuing controversy to bring my attention to it.

What’s interesting about this ad campaign is that it is not subtle in the target of its bigotry.  While I think it’s safe to say that this wasn’t the intention of the original advertisers, I believe it to be an ironic and beneficial twist of fate that the ad does more to expose the extreme and pointed gender anxiety of the people behind the campaign than it does the alleged “dangers” of the new curriculum.

h/t Sarah and Isaac

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation