Thai Ice Cream Company Apologizes for Celebrating US Gay Marriage With 'Offensive' Joke

Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, plaintiffs in the 2008 Defense of Marriage Act case, celebrate while traveling along Market Street during the annual Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco on June 28, 2015. [AFP]

BANGKOK — An ice cream company in Thailand has apologized for referencing a derogatory term for anal sex in a Facebook post intended to celebrate the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Over the weekend, Wall's Thailand, a subsidiary of the international ice cream brand Wall's, posted a photo of black bean flavored ice cream on Facebook with the caption: "Wall's supports all form of love. #lovewins." 

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Many commentators on social media criticized the post for alluding to "black bean," a slang term in Thai for anal sex that is often used to demean gay men.

According to an article published by Naewna newspaper in 2007, the term originated around 70 years ago when a man named black bean (tua dam in Thai) was arrested in 1935 for allegedly having anal sex with underage boys in Bangkok.

Several hours after a stream of angry comments began to surface on Wall's Thailand's Facebook page, the company removed the photo and replaced it with a new post featuring a rainbow colored popsicle.

However, commentators continued to demand an apology, leading the company to post a statement on their Facebook page yesterday morning. 

The statement said: 

"Wall's would like to apologize and express our regret if we caused any misunderstanding with the aforementioned post. We did not intend to make anyone uncomfortable. The company has already removed the message that caused the misunderstanding."

In a lengthy post published on Medium.com, a Thai user called Hima argued that the ice cream company’s joke would perpetuate the stereotype that gay men promiscuous and sex-obsessed.  

"It will only make people misunderstand gay men even more," he wrote.

It's not the first time the company has used black bean ice cream to reference the offensive slur. On Valentine's Day this year, Wall's Thailand also posted a photo of a black bean ice cream pop with the caption "I love you, buddy," in a reference to the title of 2007 Thai film about gay men.

Gay marriage is not recognized in Thailand, despite a concerted campaign by LGBT groups in recent years. Although the LGBT community is much more visible and accepted in Thailand than in neighboring countries like Malaysia or Myanmar –  there are no "sodomy laws" in Thailand, for instance – gay men and women do still face discrimination in the workplace and other areas of life. 

In its latest report on the status of human rights in Thailand, the US State Department noted that "there was some continued commercial discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

"For example, some life insurance companies refused to issue policies to gay men, although some companies expressed willingness to sell policies to LGBT citizens with provisions for full transfer of benefits to same-sex partners," the report said. "NGOs reported that more insurance companies had begun to accept same-sex partner beneficiaries, but it remained at the company’s discretion. NGOs alleged that some nightclubs, bars, hotels, and factories denied entry or employment to LGBT individuals, particularly transgender persons."

The report also noted that police tend to downplay sexual crimes that have been committed against gay men and women. 

 

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