REC Networks has been an ally to the free speech and media justice movements, this includes the issues related to broadband and competitive wireless telephony services. In addition, we are very sympathetic to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. REC's founder, Michi Eyre, a transgender woman, has very involved in advocacy to protect employment and public accommodation rights based on gender identity. She has also been very involved in the acceptance and participation of transgender persons in amateur competitive sports such as flat track roller derby.
Note: This issue has been addressed and resolved. See follow-up article.
We are deeply disturbed by an advertisement that was developed and approved in part by organizations including Media Access Project and the Center For Media Justice. Two organizations, who in the past, we have aligned ourselves with in philosophy and causes. The ad, opposing the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger depicts an older man holding a cigar wearing a dress similar to the one worn by the spokeswoman in T-mobile commercials with the tag line "It makes sense if you DON'T think about it." (emphasis added).
While we do not view this as intentional transphobia on the part of MAP or the other organizations or Sprint, who purchased the advertising space, we feel that the depiction is still 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.
REC Networks opposes the AT&T/T-Mobile merger as it will create a monopoly in the GSM spectrum and will limit a consumers choice of providers thus making their handset non-portable.
Our message to our allies is please think about the impact of your message delivery on other causes, while not in your realm, are just as important and think about your potential of causing harm to those causes before using that message to promote your cause.
Michi Eyre at REC Networks