The National LGBTI Health Alliance has labelled an Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) decision approving a controversial Libra tampon advertisment for Australian audiences as “regrettable”.
The ASB ruled that the ad, which features a drag queen in competition with a female in a women’s bathroom, did not demean women who “do not menstruate”, nor did it demean or vilify transgender people.
“[The advertisment] features a man dressed as a woman in a female bathroom environment, however, there is no way of determining whether they are representative of drag queens or transgender women,” the ruling stated.
“The advertisement did not discriminate against or vilify any section of the community.”
Alliance general manager Warren Talbot said the ad could incite prejudice against the transgender community.
“The difficulty is that it does not distinguish between drag queens and transgender women,” Talbot said.
“A drag queen is a man who is doing an exaggerated performance of femininity. He does not claim to be a woman, and wouldn’t care about not menstruating, because that would not affect his performance.
“A transgender woman, on the other hand, is a person who has had the situation to be born in the wrong body, and may undergo extensive medical treatment to help her body reflect her true gender identity as female.”
Talbot said the ad sent the message that if you don’t menstruate, you’re not really a woman.
“Not only does this discriminate against transgender women, but also against other women who don’t menstruate, often as a result of treatment for life-threatening illnesses like cervical cancer,” he said.
“The Advertising Standards Board itself noted that there was no way of determining whether the person in the ad is representative of drag queens or transgender women.
“It is this very ambiguity which provides the potential of harm to trans women, who already battle the widespread misperception that they are ‘men’ posing as women.”
Melbourne-based drag queen Sandee Crack, who starred in the ad, defended her role in the campaign earlier this month.
“I am in fact a gay man that dresses in drag as a performer. I have been doing so for many years… I have never considered myself to be transgendered and never will do,” Crack said.
“I was presented with the Libra commercial and saw it as a great opportunity to participate in a positive step towards acceptance for drag queens and gay men among the wider community.
“Libra [was] both sensitive, professional and accepting of my needs as a drag queen and as a gay man throughout the production process. I never felt for one moment that I would be depicted as a trans woman, nor do I believe that I have been.”
A total of 70 complaints were lodged with the ASB in response to the campaign.