Late Saturday night, the above picture was shared to a Birmingham community Facebook group. The sign, which belongs to the Vulcan Beverage liquor store and is clearly visible to passing traffic, reads “If Bruce Jenner goes missing will his picture be on a carton of half & half.” Vulcan Beverage’s willingness to throw trans people under the bus to generate advertising and business is disgusting, though unsurprising. Even less surprising was the immediate calls for people to “stop being so sensitive” and “grow a thicker skin.”
At the end of the day, such responses are callous and serve no purpose but to silence those targeted by this sign. Many transgender people experience homelessness and poverty due to discrimination in housing and employment. “Jokes” like that on the Vulcan Beverage sign send a message that dismissing trans individuals’ identities is acceptable and encourages transphobia. What’s more, the sign makes light of Caitlyn Jenner going missing in a world where trans women face an all too real threat of actual violence. Trans women - especially trans women of color - are disproportionately more likely to be victims of murder and assault. There were over 26 reported murders of trans people in the U.S. last year, and there have already been two reported murders since New Year’s alone.
The Vulcan Beverage sign contributes to a toxic atmosphere of transphobia and violence. We call on the business owners to remove this horrible sign immediately, and encourage them to meet with transgender Birmingham residents so they can hear exactly why transphobia is no laughing matter. The Change Project condemns this action and is calling for other members of the Birmingham community to also condemn this action by signing on to this post.
Steven Romeo - Founder/Executive Director of The Change Project
Matthew Pagnotti - President; Board of Directors of The Change Project
Destiny Clark - President; Central Alabama Pride
Alex Smith - President; Equality Alabama Action Fund
Daroneshia Duncan - Founder/Executive Director of TAKE
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Here is more information on why misgendering someone matters: http://www.salon.com/2016/02/10/gender_neutral_pronouns_partner/
UPDATE: As of 10:41PM on January 15, 2017 Vulcan Beverage has changed the sign and issued an apology on their Facebook page. "I would like to apologize on behalf of this company for the sign recently presented in front of our store. We apologize to anyone offended by this. None of us would knowingly make a joke at the expense of a group of people, especially one already marginalized and so frequently mocked in our society. That wasn’t at all the intent, and it didn’t occur to us it could be seen that way when it was made. I have made many mistakes in life and I am sure I have a few more to go. Please forgive us and know we show extreme support for this culture at large." The sign now looks like the image below.