A Valentine's Day advert showing a same-sex couple embracing each other unleashed homophobic comments that soon triggered a barrage of remarks in support of gay rights.
The advert forms part of electronic store Top Choice's Valentine’s Day campaign that includes a series of social media posts depicting different couples, young and old, alongside an electronic product or appliance sold by the company.
While many of the posts received a handful of comments and reactions, the post featuring the gay couple - advertising a beard trimmer - unleashed hundreds of reactions.
Some criticized the company for depicting gay love. “That’s disgusting,” one man posted while another wrote: “God created only two different sexual living being - one man and one woman and all other [are] is the violation of His order.”
These comments sparked an online crusade against intolerance with people reacting passionately in defence of gay love.
“Love it, Love has no gender,” one woman wrote. A man said: “Well done Top Choice for this ad! A great way to normalise what is normal. If there are people who are afraid to be themselves and see this ad I hope they feel empowered to be themselves and if they are reading some of the comments, I hope you know that other people's negative opinion does not say anything about you, it says a lot about them!”
Another man wrote: “A huge step forward in marketing in such a homophobic place. Gay people were, are, and will always be part of society.”
Top Choice Purchasing and Marketing Manager John Paul Debono said the reaction to the Facebook advert highlighted a lack of education about sexuality and how this should be dealt with.
He said it was “shameful” that Malta has made some great achievements in equal rights and LGBTIQ+ rights and there were still people with such a “backward mentality”.
“In this campaign we wanted to include love depiction among different couples; straight, gay and lesbian couples. We do understand that some people may not like these kind of adverts, however certain comments that were posted were absolutely dishonest, vulgar, disgusting and very disrespectful,” he said noting that a similar advert depicting two women did not generate such a reaction.
He added that this was not the first time this happened – in the 2018 February issue of the company’s door to door magazine they had depicted gay couples, amongst others. “We received an email from someone threatening us that he will never buy from us and will convince others not to,” he said.
When asked for a reaction, Clayton Mercieca, community manager at Allied Rainbow Communities, noted that most of the people posting negative comments were foreigners – highlighting an issue.
He said: “This makes it obvious that although Malta's laws are advanced in terms of LGBTIQ equality, it does not guarantee safety for LGBTIQ individuals living here especially when you have concentrated communities in certain areas that don't really integrate with Malta's ways of living and retain the same homophobia that their country has."
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