By now, we are sure you have heard or read about the gay couple denied a shared dessert at Prime Rib in Washington D.C., the nation’s capitol. Ron Gage, 55, and his partner, Henry McKinnon, had a very typical “date night” that took a quick turn for the worst.
“When it came time for dessert, we asked for one sundae with two spoons,” Gage told The Washington Post.
Instead, their waiter “said he would bring it in two separate dishes. He said ‘It wouldn’t look right with two gentlemen eating out of the same sundae. It doesn’t go with the ambiance of the restaurant,’
The couple was speechless and left the restaurant without mentioning the incident to the manager.
“I’m kind of embarrassed to say we didn’t say anything,” McKinnon, 58, told the Post. “It just took us back to such a shameful place, in a way.”
James MacLeod, the restaurant’s general manager, told the Daily News Monday that the waiter had been fired.
This admittedly, minor incident is just the latest in the almost daily tales of gay individuals and couples, attempting to go about our lives without incident or micro-aggressions. The District is known to be very gay friendly, one of the first areas in the nation to have same-sex marriage and even has a special division of the police force dedicated to anti-gay bias crimes. But these things mean little when faced with blatant homophobia that seems to arise out of no where. Like racism, it is a part of the fabric of the nation, and not just in the Southern or Midwestern states.
All across the nation, gay rights and protections have taken a back seat to, first the gay marriage debate, and now bathrooms. But within these conversations or arguments, many forget that there are actual people that are effected and affected by the outcomes. It might seem silly, in the face of so many dire issues, like HIV, to concentrate on desserts and wedding flowers, but if not now, then when? This is what we are fighting for. The ability to live our lives, free from discrimination and bigotry. We don’t want special rights, we want human rights, including the right to not be fucked with.
With this being said, many of us live our lives in almost constant fear of what might happen.
What might happen if I hold my boyfriend’s hand in public?
What might happen if I kiss him goodbye at the door?
What might happen if I bring him to the company dinner?
What might happen if I accidentally call him “honey” inside of the supermarket?
What might happen if we are verbally or physically attacked?
Fear of violence and retaliation are still major concerns as we go to work, shopping or even vacation. The National Association of Anti-Violence programs report for 2016 highlights that it was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community.
- people of color and transgender and gender non-conforming people made up the majority of homicides.
- There was a 17% increase in homicides of LGBTQ people, not including the lives taken during the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
- The majority of survivors reporting hate violence to NCAVP member programs in 2016 experienced violence by someone they know.
- More LGBTQ survivors reported experiencing hate violence online in 2016.
- Of the LGBTQ survivors who interacted with the police, 66% said that police were indifferent or hostile.
From access to healthcare, employment, housing and even florists, bakers and restaurants, gays have to be very careful how we navigate this world. Even trying to adopt a cat can lead to a homophobic confrontation. (OK, this was in the UK, but you know what we mean.) With the rise of so-called Religious Freedom Laws, what types of protections we will retain in the future is unknown and even the police are not willing to protect us but there are a few things we suggest that can help.
Make a plan of action
Basically, you should know yourself by now. You know how you handle situations well, and what some of the downsides can be if you don’t. You know your track record with confrontation and if you can give and take a punch. If any of these needs to be adjusted, do so. For example self defense classes are always a good start. Know your strengths, because at some point you will be called on to use them in defense of yourself or others.
Be willing to complain to management
No issue will ever be addressed if you don’t tell someone in authority. Going to Facebook or Twitter is fine and will get a lot of attention but if you can speak to a manager, or supervisor, right in the moment, when all parties are present, that brings the best results. Also, if this does not work, a call to the Executive Offices and a strongly written letter are also very effective. Here are some great tips on complaining.
Know when to walk away
No man wins every war. Sometimes we are out-numbered, out-matched or dealing with a person or corporation that doesn’t care. At that point, there is nothing more you can do. If you have reached the limit of people you can complain to, you will need to learn how to let it go and move on. We cannot change the world. The focus should be on not letting the world negatively change you.
We at GMJ are not fond of the word ally but in this case, they may be needed. The support of those outside of our communities can get things done that we, unfortunately, cannot. Depending on the situation, allies might include witnesses, workers and anyone with a camera. Allies have been known to intervene physically as well as verbally, and we never know when we might need one, or when one will come to our aid. It might seem like we are all alone, and honestly sometimes we are, but allies do exist.
Call the police
This is a risky move, we admit. The American police have not been kind to gay folks and definitely not to those of colour, but sometimes they have come to our aid and even rescue. At times of major crisis, we cannot pick and choose. But a call to the police can be made instead of direct confrontation and even after the fact to report a crime being committed. It might take some effort, depending on the officers involved to get a report taken, but these documents can support your case in any future legal battles you might have. Again, approach with caution.
In every large city but somewhere inside of your state is an office to report bias crimes and discrimination depending on the laws of your jurisdiction. Some states have more legal protections, like New York, and some, like any in the South, have little if any. If you do live in an area with an Employment Discrimination Office (EEOC), or even a consumer complaint division, one of these might be a great way to report your incident to a governmental oversight agency. This will, of course, depend on the situation. For example housing vs employment, or health insurance. Many industries are regulated and provide some level of protections and reporting services for the general public. If those protections include sexual orientation will depend on the laws of your state. There are no current Federal protections for us.
Anti-Violence Project reporting
Across the country are numerous agencies that are affiliated with the national organization located in New York City. They take reports of violence against the LGBT population. If you have been a victim, even if you choose not to report to the police, this is still an option for you. Just like with research, we will never know how big the issue is if victims don’t report.
Physical safety measures
Finally, what about stranger danger and even intimate partner violence? We know not every guy is a gym boy who knows how to fight and defend himself, but if possible we strongly recommend learning the basics of self-defense. This will not be an easy matter depending on where you live. Most of these programs are designed by and for women and young children. You may need to take lessons at a local boxing gym or even YMCA. Do your homework and find a program that works best for your body and lifestyle. This includes the basics such as being able to run far and fast as well as the use of pepper spray, if it is legal in your area.
So, the next time you read about one of these types of stories and wonder why it is a big deal, now you know. This is what the gay rights movement is all about. But it is also what the anti-gay rights movement is about. They want our lives to be a living hell at every single point. From the playground to the board room and every bakery and restaurant in between.
And, just so that we are clear, even if it is just about dessert, that’s fine too. We love dessert, but we don’t share.
Note: We didn’t talk about gun safety for a reason. The argument for gays and guns has grown in recent years and it is a legal option for many of you. If you are looking to become a legal gun owner, The Pink Pistols, might be able to provide you with the information you need.