It's not uncommon to see graffiti occasionally on the CTA. Advertisements are sometimes scribbled on or ripped down altogether. But a recent round of defacements is much more specific and thought-out, suggesting premeditation.
Earlier this month, an ad campaign promoting the health of gay men was launched on CTA buses and trains throughout the city. The ads ambiguously asked "How are you healthy?" and included images of men swimming, eating an apple, and working out. One ad depicts a man holding up a condom.
"This is not diseased-based, deficit-based marketing. It's not telling gay men there's something wrong with them," said Jim Pickett, director of advocacy at AIDS Foundation of Chicago, according to Medill Reports.
"It's nice to see ads about physical fitness and not necessarily about sexual health," said James Zarsadiaz, a gay 23-year-old graduate student.
Each ad bears the words "gay. sexy. healthy."
But recently, those words have been disappearing from the advertisements. They are carved out with a sharp blade or covered with tape that closely matches the ad's background color.
"It was a little premeditated," said Simone Koehlinger, director of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health at the Chicago Health Department, reports the Chi-Town Daily News. "It didn't look like it was something a couple of kids would do quickly."
Gay-health advocates are sure that their ads are being specifically targeted.
"They didn't deface the whole ad," said Pickett. "They were specific, as if 'gay' is a bad word."
Koehlinger pointed out that while the words were covered up, the image of the man holding a condom wasn't.
"I suspect people are just uncomfortable with the word 'gay' and the word 'sexy' appearing together in public view," she said.
A CTA spokeswoman said the advertising company, Titan Worldwide, is aware of the vandalism and is in the process of addressing it.