Home furnishing retailer IKEA is feeling the heat from the Thai Transgender Alliance.
The ad, entitled "Luem Aeb" ("Forgot to Deceive"), features a man with a female partner, who speaks in a high-pitched voice until she reacts in excitement to some sales, which triggers a tonal change. When the female partner carries some heavy furniture by herself, the man is shown hightailing it in embarrassment.
The alliance sent IKEA Thailand a letter on January 9, expressing concerns about the "negative representation and storyline of a male-to-female transgender/transwomen [sic] character". The letter points out that the character is "openly mocked as being 'deceitful'".
Reuters is reporting that an IKEA Thailand official has responded to the complaint by speaking with the group.
Transgender Thai women are often referred to as kathoeys, or ladyboys. Although they are accepted in Thai society, particularly in the entertainment industry, they still face discrimination and have not attained equal rights with those who aren't transgender.
Other IKEA Thailand ads depict people being exposed for being deceitful. An elderly woman is shown that she has been faking her need for a wheelchair:
A Christmas ad shows a father's role as Santa Claus being exposed to his children.
On Thailand's Got Talent, a transgender contestant, Bell Nunita, took to the stage in March 2011, and she wowed audiences with her talent…and a surprise.
However, the difference between Nuntita's performance and the IKEA ad is that Nuntita chose to change her voice, rather than by accident as portrayed in the ad. Also, the transgender woman's behaviour in the ad resulted in a negative reaction from her male partner. What's more, the title of the IKEA ad ("Forgot to Deceive") also associated being transgender with deception.