The Australian low-cost airline Jetstar
has apologized after a passenger's suitcase was plastered with “I
Am Gay” in stickers.
The incident, which occurred over the
weekend at Perth Airport, attracted international attention after the
passenger, a married father of two, wrote about it on his blog
“I know nobody there. It was after
midnight and the flight delayed over an hour … idle hands,
perhaps,” he tweeted on Sunday in response to questions that he
might have been the target of a joke.
He explained in his blog post that his
suitcase was the first to arrive on the carousel.
“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 it is true. But it isn't the words that hurt, it's the
intention behind them. 'I am gay' was not emblazoned 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,” he added, a reference to Prime Minister Tony Abbott,
who is opposed to legalizing gay marriage.
The airline said in a statement that it
was conducting a “thorough investigation” into the incident.
“We are taking this matter very
seriously and we have contacted the passenger to apologize for any
distress caused,” a spokesperson said.