Today in corporate attempts at allyship, IKEA Canada has unveiled a series of 10 “Love Seat” slipcovers for Pride — including an eldritch abomination based on the bisexual flag. It’s ugly and you can’t buy it. You’re welcome.
Each based on a different LGBTQ Pride flag, IKEA’s “Love Seat” two-seaters will be on display at IKEAs across Canada throughout summer. Each of the 10 couches was created by one of four designers, three of whom are queer, in collaboration with people who identified with each flag, ensuring the furniture reflected someone’s real story.
“Each designer had the freedom to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art,” said IKEA Canada’s Claudia Mayne. “This partnership is our way of helping artists in different communities express themselves on a large platform in a way that’s been tricky during COVID-19.”
It’s certainly one way of showing support for the LGBTQ community. Supporting artists is a good cause and taste is extremely subjective, so there will definitely be people out there who love these couches. However, at least one of these couches has largely been met with bemusement, confusion, and mild horror: the Bisexual Flag Love Seat.
Covered in pink, blue, and purple fabric hands, including long limbs clawing at the armrests, the Bisexual Flag Love Seat’s backrest is adorned with text that reads “When you change ‘or’ to ‘and’, nobody believes you.” (Or depending on how you read it, “When you change nobody, ‘or’ to ‘and’ believe you.”)
Many Twitter users have noted that the couch’s negative text isn’t exactly uplifting or celebratory, and that it looks more like a condemnation of bisexuality than a message of support.
Bisexual people are frequently erased from the queer community, as others refuse to believe a person could be attracted to multiple genders. They don’t need that kind of energy from a couch too.
The Bisexual couch was designed by Charlotte Carbone, previous winner of Canadian design show Stitched, in collaboration with slam poet Brian Lanigan. According to Lanigan, the couch makes much more sense in context.
“The line ‘when you change ‘or’ to ‘and’, nobody believes you’ is from a poem I wrote in high school about bisexual erasure I experienced from an ex-partner and others,” Lanigan explained on Twitter, stressing that he was 15 years old at the time. “I’m a spoken word poet and the hands are meant to represent the audience reaction, especially those of other bisexual folks who would approach me after performances and share their story with me.”
It’s a sweet story full of wholesome intentions that has unfortunately wrought something truly unspeakable. So often, we question if the ends justify the means. Today we must ask ourselves, does the means justify the ends?
In some ways, IKEA Canada’s Bisexual Love Seat is actually a very bold, avant-garde work. I do not pretend to be a connoisseur of textile design, but it seems to me that this couch fills a gaping need, pushing our society to progress and evolve for the better. After all, we can never achieve true equality until queer designs are allowed to suck just as much as cis-het designs.