In case you came in late to the whole Chick-Fil-A controversy (I did), CEO Dan Cathy recently affirmed the companies anti gay marriage position, and among other things said: “I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about." This isn't so much about what Cathy said, as the fallout and reaction about last Fridays kiss-in protests at his restaurants around the country, and the surprising tolerance and support for his bigoted position the protest seems to have led to.
I wasn't having the best afternoon this past Saturday. I'd been out in the morning on my usual weekend hunt for old records, and came home to certified letters from the IRS. It was an oddly gloomy summer day here in Oakland, and I fell asleep on the couch for awhile.
I'd logged into a gay dating site before I fell asleep, and woke to the pleasant mock telephone sound that alerted me I had an email from a potential suitor. So I got up, sat at the computer, and had a short and awkward chat that went frustratingly nowhere.
As I was still waking up, I wandered over to facebook, and saw a post by a blogger named Michael Patrick who friended me a while back, I think because of a singer we both know. He had shared a photo of a man at a Chick-Fil-A wearing a t-shirt that said “I Had Sex At Chick-Fil-A”, that had the caption “And they expect tolerance”. There was a sole comment by Renee McKrill that said:
“This guy has no class. What kind of sick individual has to announce to complete strangers he had sex not to mention the children who would rather not know. He obviously is a democrat. A republican gay would go about his life quietly. Democrats have to shove it down the throats of everyone even demanding legislation. What a jerk off. “
I was stunned to see this on my facebook page. Living here in Oakland, as opposed to Louisiana, where Ms. McKrill is from, I'm pretty insulated from a direct experience of such blatant homophobia. I've experienced it enough during my life, and really don't need any more.
Still, I couldn't help but click on the photo to see more about where this posting was intended to go. It was shared from the facebook page of The Scarlet Sage. Here are some more of the comments:
The lefties are just like Satan, give them an inch and they will be your ruler! God did not design the human body for "this kind of sexual intercourse" read an anatomy book. And if it is "normal" why don't other animals in the world practice same sex intercourse?? The Bible teaches us in the "latter days" good will be called bad and bad will be called good! Our only hope is to turn to God for wisdom. Margie Riley.
These clowns are less than 3% of the population. We are supposed to make some grand accommodations for them so they can flaunt it in our faces? Fk them in the neck. Grant Guess
totally and utterly disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TK Wright
These PIGS can go screw Donkeys and Goats if they want ..... Who cares what DEGENERATES do. Judson Witham
You know what is so bad is that the gays are in your face, flaming, and acting like children. If you are gay, have some class and keep it to yourselves. It is just not right to see two men or two women kissing in public. OMG Get a room. Vicky Cummings
OK, I think you all get the idea, right? In all fairness, not all comments were as awful as these, but a surprisingly large amount of the over 100 were. Some were possibly even worse. It was a facebook hate-fest, and there I was face to face with it.
I wasn't sure what Mr. Patrick’s intentions were by posting the photo, so I read his somewhat related blog post called “Planes Chicken And Fast Food”. He wrote: “...as far as Dan Cathy's opinion goes.....he has every right to voice it, not everything that is said is always agreed on. But we all have to support the right to express it...if you don't agree with his stance, just take your business elsewhere. Staging "kiss-ins" is just so much classless bullshit...and changes nothing. But taking your money to say Popeye's or Kentucky Fried Chicken will catch the stockholder's attention much more then showboating for the TV cameras."
I got really close to deleting Mr. Patrick, and unjoining his facebook group “The Inner Circle”. Stuff like this really upsets me, and I don't really like to be exposed to it. But, it's a reality I need to be aware of. I forget sometimes just how much some people hate my kind, and that it's much more widespread then the awful Rev. Fred Phelps, or say Rick Santorum. So I didn't delete, and wrote Michael to ask him his intentions with all this.
Michael kindly wrote back, and explained that he is not homophobic at all, a great relief to know. His purpose in reposting the Scarlet Sage post was to point out irony in one of the comments under the photo. I found the attempt kind of vague, but I was glad to learn it was well intentioned, as Patrick seems like a nice guy.
Still, what worries me about Patrick's blog is that he treats Dan Cathy with respect, and the gay protestors with disrespect. It's a subtle version of homophobia I've observed since I came out at 40. Our government thinks less of us, as does a fair portion of the population, and it permeates our culture in small ways like this. Like the unfortunate phrase “That's gay”.
Personally, I'm really sad I missed the kiss in nearest me in Fairfield, about 40 minutes from here. Yes, we have free speech in this country, and as much as I disagree with the owner of Chick-Fil-A, I do think he has a right to say what he wants. But I also support peaceful protest, and my brave gay brothers and sisters who stood out in public and kissed have every right to do that too.
Kissing is a basic and important gesture of caring and love. The protestors were showing there's more to being gay then just sex, there's all the other things that go with being a couple too. Maybe the protest didn't get to Dan Cathy, and maybe it disgusted some people. But maybe it showed some people something they rarely see, and need time to absorb, that gay people have the same basic need and capability for love as straight people.
While working on this piece, I began to notice a recurring trend: Michael Patrick was far from alone. I searched through pages of Google results and couldn't find anything really supporting the protestors. One possible reason could be the protest wasn't much of a success in terms of attendance, it seems that it would be hard to find where more then 50 kissers showed up, and in many places it was much less.
But over and over, people both conservative and liberal were quick to defend Cathy's right to say whatever he wanted, no matter how offensive. Even I'm prone to do that, but can't we at least defend the right of the kiss-in participants for peaceful protest? Even gay people are arguing about it's merit.
A Huffington Post blogger, who's by line is “LGBT Rights Activist”, Waymon Hudson, says: “... I think using the tactic of a kiss-in plays into the "yuck" attitudes of our opposition”.
From the universal reactions, I guess Hudson has a point, but really, this unfair barrier that exists about same sex couples kissing in public needs to be broken down. If us gay people don't start going for it, and risk getting the “yuck factor” invoked at us, how else is it going to happen? One kiss a year on network TV isn't going to get the job done.
I pray for the day when the only statement my kissing a man in public will make is how I feel about that man. And I pray for the day when I don't have to see hateful comments about who I was born to be. I really believe God made me this way. And I thank Patrick for returning my email, and for making me aware of what's out there, of letting me see the other side. I'm not happy to see it, but it's important to know. Painful and aggravating, but important to know.
all quotes by the people mentioned. otherwise, all material by me. no copyright intended.