A straight New Zealand man named Aaron, a stay-at-home father, was shocked when he landed in Perth after a flight on Jetstar Airways and his suitcase came out on the luggage carrousel covered with stickers spelling out "I am gay."
He tweeted a photo of his suitcase, writing, "Utterly disgusted to find my luggage front and center on the @JetstarAirways luggage carousel looking like this."
Jetstar was quick to issue an apology and has launched an investigation into the prank, but Aaron has decided he'd “rather have broad consciousness raising over job losses" and has taken to his blog, One Sleepy Dad, to express how the experience affected him, giving him insight into the discrimination many gay people face:
"I plucked the suitcase off the carousel and had many eyes look me up and down. I was taken aback by the slogan but thought I had thick enough skin to ignore the leering. My connecting flight was about to board so I had to speed through the terminal to check in with Qantas. 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 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.
Until our political/religious/community leaders acknowledge and address these inequalities, until we de-normalise prejudice, we can't expect the 'losers' to follow."