‘Sorry Vodafone customers it turned out he was a she’ – how Three alienated trans people in an advert
Phone company Three has alienated a large part of its customer base through a billboard erected in Ireland that many have intepreted as a transphobic slur. Is it? We spoke to Jude Orlando Enjolras, a trans man, about his views on the advert and why he found it distasteful.
“Three Ireland's advert is both factually wrong, and wrong on an ethical level," he said. "First of all, 'he was a she' translates as 'this man is actually a woman, because he was assigned female at birth.' This reduces trans men, and trans people in general, to our genitals, external appearance, and the labels that society, starting with doctors, impose on us from birth, without our consent. Trans men are men.”
“Three Ireland's advert reinforces the idea that trans people are, and will forever be, the sex we were coercively assigned at birth. More worryingly still, the wording of the ad perpetuates the myth of trans people as liars, deceivers, “traps.” We live in a world where trans people, especially trans women, are targets for discrimination, harassment, and violence. Once, a man I had planned to go on a date with realised I was transgender – and sent me a page-long message full of threats, including “If I ever see you around town I will stomp on your head until you die.”
Three has apologised for the advert on its Facebook page and tried to clarify that they did not mean it to be transphobic. The statement said: “Hi there, sorry if you feel this ad is offensive. That was not our intention. It’s part of a wider campaign that gives examples of when you can often miss the best bits of TV/films when you’re streaming because you’ve used all your data. Another example in the campaign is "'Sorry Vodafone customers, Ireland scored the winning try after you’d used all your data’. Again, we’re sorry for any offence caused and hope this explains the concept and shows that no offence was intended at all.”
Whatever the intention, it’s been poorly executed.