A straight Australian father who was the target of an anti-gay incident while travelling says he’s come to realise what gay people often have to deal with.
The man, known only as Aaron, discovered that his suitcase had the words “I am gay” written across it with stickers when he collected his luggage at Perth Airport after flying on a Jetstar flight.
“Utterly disgusted to find my luggage front and centre on the luggage carousel looking like this,” the stay at home dad said on Twitter, alongside a picture of the defaced suitcase.
Aaron went on to write about the incident on his blog, One Sleepy Dad, with a great deal of insight:
“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.
“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.
“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. It goes all the way up to our political leaders and includes such luminaries as our Prime Minister. Our laws ensure that homosexuals are not afforded the same rights and dignities that many of us straight people take for granted every day.”
Aaron said that Jetstar had contacted him and “offered a very sincere apology. For which I am grateful”. They are also conducting an investigation into the incident.
Same-sex marriage is still not legal in Australia and is opposed by recently elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott.