This weekend while traveling, One Sleepy Dad blogger Aaron saw his suitcase emerge on the Perth airport carousel with the message “I Am Gay.”
Aaron is not gay. But the reaction he felt as he carried his suitcase through the airport opened his eyes to just a small part of what it’s like to be treated like a minority.
His articulation of the experience has gone viral on the internet today:
I am a white heterosexual male. This trifecta of privilege means that I’m not routinely subjected to prejudice. But for a few minutes I got to walk in the shoes of a gay person in a public place. For no good reason I had had a slur marked over my luggage. I was degraded. I was shamed. I was humiliated.
For me, this was only a few minutes of one day of my life. If what I felt for those few minutes is extrapolated out every day over a lifetime, then I can fully understand why our gay friends feel persecuted and why they have such high rates of suicide. It is unacceptable.
It is said that words can’t hurt you. That it is true. But it isn’t the words that hurt, it’s the intention behind them. “I am gay” was not emblazened across my luggage as a celebration. It was used as a pejorative. It was used to humiliate. It was used as a slur.
Until our political/religious/community leaders acknowledge and address these inequalities, until we de-normalise prejudice, we can’t expect the “losers” to follow.
As for the people calling me a whiner and telling me to toughen up, I would like to quote Lieutenant General David Morrison: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
This incident isn’t about me, it’s about what we as a society find acceptable.
In addition to the blog post and the author tweeting the picture of his suitcase, any major outlets have also published the photo, including The Huffington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, and International Business Times.
The airline has since apologized. “We are taking this matter very seriously and we have contacted the
passenger to apologise for any distress caused,” a Jetstar spokeswoman
said in response to the media storm.