When the bits of information about Leisha Hailey's experience on a Southwest Airlines flight first started trickling out yesterday via Twitter (which I was of course on at the time), I had two simultaneous reactions. One, I assumed without knowing any other source information that the airline was at fault. Two, I snickered at the PR ramifications because, I mean really, could you not find someone more adorable to pick on, Southwest? She's one of the Yoplait bridesmaids fer chrissakes, not to mention the only remotely likeable character on the L Word.
So yeah, as noted by a Twitter friend, maybe I rushed to judgement believing the worst of Southwest. I didn't care then, and I don't really care now, even though Hailey and girlfriend have since stated they take "full responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant after being told it was a 'family airline'" and the airline has "clarified" the real reason they got booted wasn't their "excessive" display of affection but their profanity and "aggressive reaction."
In Hailey's version, the "excessive" PDA was one kiss, after which the couple was approached by a flight attendant who told them they were traveling on a "family airline." And that, that right there, is what this is about: the completely unselfconscious, unexamined assumption that GLBT people are supposed to have the decency to be ashamed of ourselves, to know our place, and to accept it without any kind of undue reaction.
You're a paying customer on a crowded airplane, someone in authority says something to you that translates as "what you and your partner are doing isn't merely irritating, it's disgusting, harmful to children and families even." You then have the choice of swallowing the hatred quietly and politely, conforming, going along to get along, or you get angry. Short of physically harming someone or doing something that might cause the plane to crash, I think anger is perfectly understandable in that situation.
In fact, as far as I'm concerned, it's the only really sane reaction.
This story isn't important because Southwest kicked another celebrity off a plane because they can get away with it because it won't put a dent in their business. The story is important because we do know our place, and we will continue to claim it.
Snarker gets the last word:
So for every person out there who persists on thinking we’re just shoving our big gay agenda into their faces, trust me – we’ve thought about the consequences of what we’re doing a lot more than you ever have. And we do what we do because we’ve decided that it’s worth it – despite all the bullshit – to be who we are. Because to self-censor ourselves for other people’s so-called comfort isn’t doing the world any favors. In fact, it hurts the world to let this double standard exist that says one kind of love is more acceptable than another kind of love. We think long and hard and endlessly about many of the simple gestures that straight people just take for granted.
So each time gay people demand to be treated equal, cry foul against discrimination and simply dare to give the person we love a kiss before the plane takes off, we chip away at that double standard. We stake our claim on our own equality. We say, I have the right to do this. If that makes you uncomfortable world, well, that’s your fucking problem. It’s not excessive to kiss someone you love, Southwest Airlines. And it is definitely worth it.