A white, heterosexual, stay-at-home dad says he was forced to acknowledge his "trifecta of privilege" this past weekend after finding a gay slur stuck to his luggage following a flight and feeling the degradation, shame, and humiliation homosexuals are made to feel "every day over a lifetime."
Aaron, an Australian blogger who goes by "One Sleepy Dad" on his site, recounted the story of arriving at the luggage carousel following a Jetstar flight from Perth only to find his suitcase covered in sticker tags that spelled out the words "I AM GAY."
The company has since launched an investigation into the incident to determine who among its crew members might be responsible for the derogatory suitcase defacing.
Though Aaron says he received an accepted an apology from Jetstar for his ordeal, he also felt the need to elaborate on the wider implications of finding his straight self at the center of a homophobic attack.
Because he had yet to reach his final destination and was already running late to catch his connecting Qantas flight, Aaron says he had to rush to the correct terminal, dragging the case behind him.
"I looked back at the people I had passed and they too looked at me differently," he recalled. "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.
Aaron doesn't expect much to come from Jetstar's "investigation," though a company spokeswoman insists the airline is "taking this matter very seriously."
"I'm sure Jetstar will handle it," he tweeted. "I'd rather have broad consciousness-raising over job losses."