Owner of Sign Company Apologizes for Transphobic Caitlyn Jenner Sign, Invites Her to Stay at His House
"Cait is more then welcome to stay at my house with my family any time. I will have a wine or a beer with her quite happily and it would be an honour." ['sic']
This week, New Zealand company Cranium Signage came under fire for their offensive use of Caitlyn Jenner's image in their annual Christmas billboard. The sign featured Caitlyn, photoshopped to be wearing a santa hat, next to the text: "I hope your sack is fuller than mine this Christmas. Merry Christmas from Cranium."
Not surprisingly, the image and text quickly drew criticism from the local community as it was shared on social media. Rebecca Jones, a mother of a nine-year-old transgender son, became aware of the sign when it was brought up at a LGBT support group she leads. She emailed the company expressing her disgust and highlighting the pain comments like this can cause trans individuals. While Cranium Signage director and owner Phillip Garratt replied and apologized for any offense, he was less gracious in an email to one of her friends who had also complained. In that exchange Phillip commented, "I think you may need to take a look at yourself and relax a bit and not take life so seriously. I was referring to a santa sack, your sick mind is the problem."
While Jones was making her feelings clear, more and more members of the wider community also began getting in contact via email and on social media. Finally sensing the weight of their fuck up, Garratt posted an apology on behalf of Cranium Signage, saying: "It was not our intention to offend any people in the community/world. I as the owner have no feelings of discrimination to the gay or transgender community and if one of my family was I would love them just the same. Cait is more then welcome to stay at my house with my family any time. I will have a wine or a beer with her quite happily and it would be an honour." [sic]
Clearly familiar with the sight of someone trying to weasel out of a media shit-pile, Jones replied: "Caitlyn might be busy, my 9 year old transgender son might be free if you want to invite him to your house and explain why you thought it was funny to ridicule a transgender person since he has been trying to raise awareness since he was 6 years old!"
Last night the board was covered up and will be taken down. But Jones suggested the company completes their apology tour by giving $1000 [$700 USD] to an LGBT group. Cranium has since donated the suggested amount to Rainbow Youth, an organization that supports queer and gender diverse young New Zealanders. Toni Duder, the group's communication manager, accepted the donation and said, "In future it would be good to work together to promote Rainbow Youth and its work in a more positive light." [sic]
While the group has undoubtedly learned their lesson, and felt the weight of a throwaway joke, the incident did trigger a broader conversation. Many members of the public were slow to forgive the offense, while others called it "genius marketing" and claimed that people couldn't take a joke or were being overly sensitive.
Cranium Signage has a history of incorporating viral news events into their advertising. Earlier in the year they riffed on the Christchurch co-workers caught having an affair through an open office window a billboard reading: "Feeling exposed? Talk to us about our window frosting."
Interestingly Caitlyn wasn't the only member of her family to feature in a discussion around taste and photoshop this week. Images of her daughter, Kendall Jenner, as well as her step-daughter, Kim Kardashian, were used without permission in a controversial domestic violence campaign.
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