The video ad shows a Thai man and his girlfriend shopping at IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture retailer. The woman sees pillows for sale and gets so excited, her feminine voice turns into a deep, male voice, revealing her real identity as a man. That’s when her boyfriend takes off in panic that his girlfriend is really a man.
The groups called the ad a "negative and stereotypical" depiction of the transgender population and "a gross violation of human rights.”
According to the Thai Transgender Alliance, the 20-second video ad -- “Luem Aeb” (“Forget to Keep Hidden”) -- which was shown on Bangkok trains in December and January was highly offensive. The group penned an open letter to IKEA, demanding an explanation from the company for the ad.
The group said that since transgenders, called “Ladyboys,” are highly accepted in Thai society, this commercial directly contradicts the notion of acceptance.
“The transgender content of the advertisement is negative and stereotypical in nature, perpetuating misunderstanding transgenderism as human sexuality for ‘deceitful and deviant lifestyle,” the group wrote.
Reuters reported that a marketing official for IKEA Thailand spoke with the alliance on Thursday in response to the complaint, which was filed on Jan. 9.
"IKEA has spoken to the group over the telephone and the conversation went very smoothly. We are now drafting a letter in response," the unnamed official said.
Anger over the transgender ad has also made its way to the U.S., where LGBTQ blog, Queerty, tackled the subject.
“Ikea was one of the first mainstream retailers to include positive LGBT representations in its advertising,” Queerty wrote. “So it’s disappointing the company chose to mock the trans community in a recent ad that aired in Thailand.”