A straight man flying on Jetstar had his baggage returned with the words “I am gay” written on the side, and experienced walking in a gay man’s shoes for a few moments as he made his way through the airport terminal.
The experience gave him insight on the way that the LGBTQ community is treated in public spaces, and a new analysis for the privilege heterosexuals enjoy in those same spaces.
“[I] thought I had thick enough skin to ignore the leering…As I dragged the case through the terminal, I looked back at the people I had passed and they too looked at me differently. My luggage was a scarlet letter,” he wrote on his blog, posted October 14.
“I am a white heterosexual male,” he continued.
“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.”
The experience has given him a newfound respect for the fight for equal rights, and he calls out for a change, not only in legislation that protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but also a change in a culture that allows for the mistreatment of queer individuals.
“Some people have been commenting that it’s probably just some loser in backrooms making a distasteful joke. Or that Jetstar has a culture of homophobia. Unfortunately, the mistreatment of our gay friends spans society.”
“Until our political/religious/community leaders acknowledge and address these inequalities, until we de-normalise prejudice, we can’t expect the ‘losers’ to follow.”
He ends his blog post by reminding his readers that when homophobia and prejudice against queer people goes unaddressed, it is given allowance to continue.
“I would like to quote Lieutenant General David Morrison: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. ”