How Do You Deal with Public Displays of Homophobia?

Just when you think that Manhattan is totally safe for gays, you hear about an awful verbal attack that you just can't believe. And in super gay Hell's Kitchen for that matter. Did the two men who were called "fags" in a CVS this morning do the right thing?

Every swooshy gay man has probably been called a "fag" at one time or another. (Hell, every man has probably been called that at one time or another.) But what do you do when it happens? And who should be obligated to stand up for you? Let's look at the story that came in today from one of our readers.

This morning at 8am, my husband and I were walking past the CVS at 57th and 9th in Manhattan, and decided to pop in for a flu shot before going to work. We grabbed a few other groceries (eye drops, Chap Stick) and stood in line at the pharmacy counter. The pharmacist gave us each a clipboard to fill out our information for the shot, and we stood off to the side, waiting patiently for a few other customers to finish picking up their prescriptions. As it was early and we hadn't yet had our coffee, we were standing at the counter silently, almost as invisible as two people could be.

After about a minute, we heard a man in the pharmacy begin muttering under his breath, "Faggots. Those are some faggots right there." I looked up at him and he continued his rant, "Biblical abominations. It says it right there in the Bible. It's not right." And so on. In about the same tone, I spoke back to him, "Excuse me. You can't talk to people like that." He raised his voice in response, continuing his escalating rant until it attracted the attention of a passing manager, who asked what was going on. The man in line actually told the manager, "They started it," but it was incredibly obvious we hadn't even known this guy was standing there, so he quickly abandoned that line and said instead, "You can't mess with me. I'm a loyal customer." He continued on along the same lines, until we were all but begging the manager to do something about it. The manager looked at the guy in line, looked at us, and informed us, "Just let him pick up his medication and go." We asked once more if he could offer any other recourse. He repeated, "Just let him pick up his medication and go." Instead, we put down our groceries, offered a "Have a nice day" to the manager, and left.

Their reaction, to not patronize a business with such awful customers, seems to be just. It's the GOP defense, hit a business where it really matters, target their bottom line. Our reader has also been encouraging people to call CVS and complain about the manager's behavior. But did the manager do anything wrong? Should he have kicked the guy out? Is it the business' place to police its customers and their views?

What about all the bystanders? I'm sure it would have been helpful for these two if some other people had their backs. either verbally or physically. But would you dare to speak up and get yourself involved? So let's hear it. How would you have reacted to this situation and what can we do to make sure things like this don't continue to happen in the future?

[Image via KenFagerDotCom/Flickr]