Jon Hetherington had waited 25 years to see Beyoncé in concert. He’d weathered the exhausting process to score a coveted ticket for the Queen’s Renaissance World Tour.
But on the day of the concert, his excitement crumbled when the flight from Eugene, Oregon, to Seattle couldn’t accommodate his wheelchair, leaving him grounded.
If Pride continues to exclude people, liberation and justice will only be delayed.
After he posted about his crushed dream on social media, the Beyhive went to work. Last night, Hetherington flew to Texas at this singer’s invitation to see her perform. Her team even arranged the flight.
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Social media users tagged the singer and her management company thousands of times to bring attention to his plight, hoping they would make it right. And that’s precisely what they did.
“For the past, for Marsha, James, and Bayard. For the present, for O’Shae. For those who are becoming in a time that has yet to exist,” he posted to Instagram from the stadium. “We partied, we sang, we danced… HARD. Beyhive, you made this happen, you pushed and tagged like the internet has never seen. Tonight, for the first time ever, I had a seat on the floor for a concert. Welcome to the RENAISSANCE.”
“There is much that I will say in the coming days about what tonight means to me. There are some things I’ll keep for myself. Truly an honor to meet you, @mstinaknowles! Thank you for all that you’ve done and given the world. We’re so grateful,” he added in a separate post with a photo of Beyoncé’s mother.
“To the Queen herself, @beyonce, I will treasure those words you said and the hugs you gave. I meant every word I said. No, for anyone and everyone reading this, I will not ever share with you what was said to me, don’t even try it. That moment is between the two of us.”
Hetherington’s saga started when an Alaska Airlines flight tried to accommodate his electric wheelchair, but it was four inches too big to fit in the door. He says the staff was kind and tried to find him another flight that could fit the chair, but the only one available would get him to Seattle too late to go to the concert. The airline refunded the cost of his ticket.
Obviously disappointed, he posted a TikTok video expressing his sadness and anger, calling out the ableism and lack of proper accommodations.
In a follow-up video, he vented about society’s limitations on disabled people and how unfair it is.
“It’s not just one airline,” he said. “It’s every facet of our society that we have built to exclude disabled people. That’s the real problem we have to address here.”
“I’m demoralized about this because I’ve waited so f**king long for this and no disabled person, myself included, should ever have to have an experience where, uh, it’s just a fact of life. This is just what we deal with. You just roll with the punches, because you’re going to be excluded, so just deal with it. But that’s life and I’ve gotten used to it and I’m just demoralized and angry and frustrated and sad. Nobody should have to deal with this.”
After the concert, he followed up on his experience attending the show and the larger issues of the rights of disabled people. While he was grateful for the support the internet and singer had shown him, he noted that “there is a lot that goes into it because it’s not just about me.”
“It’s really not about me at all actually. It’s about ableism and the existence of disabled people in society.”
He also turned down all offers of financial help, saying the issue was bigger than that.
“While I am deeply, profoundly grateful for your kindness, crowdfunding isn’t necessary. I’ve seen talk going around and I wanted to address it. I don’t want anyone to sacrifice funds they need or could otherwise give to worthy causes,” he posted.
“Ask anyone who knows me personally, I’d much rather you use your resources to dismantle systemic issues like ableism, racism, misogyny, and queerphobia. I fundamentally believe that none of us are free until we all are.”