Thursday, August 20, 2009

on being black, gay and hungry

After last night's protest I realize how lucky I was to have grown up in an environment that at least on the surface was accepting of the LGBT community. My friends jokingly called Blake "the liberal faggy school on a hill," because it was a place where many gay students had come out and did so with the support of their friends and faculty. As a sophomore, I remember being yelled at by a teacher for saying "That's so gay" in class. She pulled me aside after the bell rang. "When you go out into the real world," she said, "you're going to encounter people who won't tolerate you for saying things like that."

My teacher was right, but not in the way she expected. Scared of kids like Randy, who did a curtsy at graduation, and scared of things I felt but refused to acknowlege, I was not one of those students who felt comfortable enough to "come out" in high school. In college I heard terms like "faggot" used in a derogatory manner for the first time in a long time. My first boyfriend and I were even chased down the escalator of the U Street Metro by a man threatening to kill us. I'm not even sure if he saw us holding hands. I knew that I had to finally accept who I was. You don't grow up black (I am also Indian) without feeling like you constantly have something to prove. I knew I had to take ownership of this new identity before anyone else defined them for me.

So it's especially daunting to be reminded that you can still go to a restaurant not too far from that "liberal faggy school on a hill" and find out you are not valued for who you are. I'm disappointed that a restaurant which, as Aiyi'Nah Ford pointed out is a local institution, would be willing to turn any paying customer away under the pretense of offending someone. It turns out that the manager of the Tastee Diner was right: we are offended. But will that stop me from eating at Tastee Diner? I'm not sure. No one is exactly clear what this couple did to be asked to leave. The protestors - and the cameras that followed - were not turned away last night, suggesting Tastee Diner isn't interested in making a big deal of what happened.

That doesn't relieve them of giving an apology, however. Whether or not you think anything really happened last week, it's clear that Tastee Diner's getting very bad marks for customer relations. It's best for them to make amends with Ford and Brown and move on.


C. P. Zilliacus said...

Dan, thank you for sharing this.

I sometimes say that people are what they are, and that's good enough for me.

As important, however, is that consenting adults can do what they want in the privacy of their own homes. And those consenting adults should be able to show affection for each other in a public place as well.

Cilla said...

I first found your blog after you appeared on the Kojo Nnambi show, and have enjoyed it ever since. This is my first comment.

I am a regular at The Tastee Diner, and have a number of friends in the GLTV community here and in E. I was shocked and horrified by the incident as it was first described. But, like you, I am now not sure of much except that an apology from the management is due.

And, to C.P. Zilliacus: Well said!

Thomas Hardman said...


Gay, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, and ???

Tom A. said...

Fantastic post!

Cilla said...

Yes, Thomas, typos happen. sorry. also, the "E" was supposed to be England.

Thomas Hardman said...

I feel it absolutely necessary to troll with a hypothetical.

Let's say you are in the Tastee Diner some night and there's some guy in his 40s and some gal clearly not yet 18. They start making out. The management asks them to tone it down, and one and/or both of the couple start in on them.

How do you feel about that? Does the management of Tastee Diner owe them an apology?

I'm just askin'...

Ginger said...

Great post, Dan.

I too was appalled when I heard about the incident at Tastee Diner, but on the flip-side, I feel fortunate to live in an area where--at least it seems--that kind of intolerance is not the norm.