An Australian airline has apologized and said it is investigating how the words “I am gay” were spelled out in airline baggage stickers on a passenger’s luggage on Sunday between his departure in Perth and his arrival in Brisbane.
A spokeswoman for Jetstar Airways said a thorough investigation would be conducted after the passenger, who has identified himself only as Aaron, tweeted a photo of the luggage, with the caption: “Utterly disgusted to find my luggage front and center on the @JetstarAirways luggage carousel looking like this.”
Aaron described the incident on his blog, “One Sleepy Dad,” and said he believes the incident took place in Perth, but the airline was unable to confirm this.
My suitcase was the first bag on the carousel. The entire flight’s passengers were shoulder-to-shoulder looking for their bags and I’m pretty sure that most people would’ve seen mine rattling along the rollers.
I saw a big red case approaching and excused my way through the throng in order to retrieve it. I noticed some white bits on the side and turned back, apologising to the people who I had just pushed passed. “False alarm,” I said to one gent. Then I realised that it actually was my bag and that the white bits were the sign you see in the image above.
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.
Aaron, a straight father of two, said the incident has left him with a new found understanding of homophobia and the persecution LGBT people encounter daily:
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 says he has been contacted by Jetstar and was offered “a very sincere apology.”
“They are also conducting a ‘serious’ investigation that I am assisting them with,” he said.
In the meantime, Twitter users have attacked Jetstar, describing the incident as “disgusting and unforgivable”.