Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kiss this, Southwest

Do you know how to make a lot of lesbians really angry really fast? Be mean to Alice Pieszecki. In what seems like a plot out of “The L Word,” but is actual real and infuriating life, Leisha Hailey and her partner were escorted off a Southwest flight yesterday after kissing. Yes, in the year 2011 two gay ladies can’t kiss on an airplane without it being the end of the goddamn fucking world.

Leisha took to her twitter account last afternoon to express her justifiable outrage. (Click to enlarge. Read from the bottom to the top for the correct chronology).

So at Southwest bags fly free, but gay ladies can’t fly at all?

My outrage at this is multifold, and only compounded by Southwest’s official statement on the incident, released hours later. It read, in part:

“Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”

I think Southwest’s spell check is broken because they typed the word “excessive” when they really meant “gay.” You know, they’re pretty much interchangeable for some people. Now, I’ve flown a lot in my day. Across the state, across the country, across the oceans. And I have seen a lot of straight couples kiss on airplanes. A lot. And sometimes vigorously. But I have never seen a straight couple asked to stop kissing on an airplane. And I have never seen a straight couple escorted off for complaining that they were asked to stop kissing on an airplane. Never. Not once.

The Uh Huh Her twitter feed responded in kind, refuting this whole “excessive” business:

Besides that clear double standard (which blames the gays for daring to be gay and also daring to kiss while being gay), Southwest is essentially shrugging off its responsibility for its actions by claiming they were just reacting to passenger complaints. So, if some wingnut says he doesn’t like Asian people on his flight, would Southwest then – because it says is “responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board” – ask those Asian people to leave? If a homophobic passenger doesn’t like to see gay people show affection toward each other, why do his rights trump the couple’s rights? How is that more of a “family” value than embracing love – in all of its variations? This from the company that calls itself the LUV Airline.

Now, the naysayers (and there are always sayers making with the nay – this is the internet, it practically breeds them) will say that gays should just cool it with the PDA. That all PDA is uncomfortable and should not be allowed for anyone – but, you know, especially that icky gay kind that has the potential to make “normal” Americans have to explain to their kids that the world is a big place and not everyone is the same or some such socialist malarkey.

They say when gay people kiss in public they “want attention” or are “rubbing it in other people’s faces” or “whatever other homophobic bullshit I can say to mask the deep insecurity I feel about my own sexuality and that one time at summer camp with my cute counselor.” To those people I want to make a rational argument about how affection between straight and gay couples is no different, and what is acceptable for one should be just as acceptable for the other. But mostly I just want to tell those people to go fuck themselves. Truly, I could not be more sincere about that.

Look, I highly doubt Leisha and her lady friend were trying to go all Bette Porter at the opera on each other in their seats. Nothing about modern air travel is even the least bit conducive to a frisky finger bang session. Instead, like a lot of couples do, they shared a small smooch or two before the plane took off. Again, like a lot of couples do. If a straight couple did it, these same so-called complainers would probably say “Awwww.” Because a gay couple did it they said “Ewwww.”

Keep in mind, this is also the airline that kicked Greenday’s Billie Joe Armstrong off one of its planes for wearing saggy pants and director Kevin Smith off one of its planes for being too, in his own words, “fat.” And those are just the famous people they’ve wronged. They also have that pilot who accidentally broadcast his homophobic, misogynistic rant about “gays,” “grannies” and “grandes” to all the planes in the Houston area. Ironically, they’re also the official airlines of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

What is most frustrating about this, besides the obvious inequality and homophobia, is that every gay person already has an internal monitor that she or he uses to regulate public behavior. It’s mostly subconscious, often just instinctual. But it has been ingrained in us from the moment we realized we were different. I call it the “Is It Worth It?” Meter. It’s that meter tells us how fully we can be ourselves and when it is worth the consequences. For the most part, the answer is always yes. Yes, it’s worth it to be out. Yes, it’s worth it to be public. Yes, it’s worth it to hold your girlfriend’s hand at the movie theater.

But then there are times when it simply is not worth it. No, it’s not worth it to tell the douchey coffee guy who always tries to hit on you because it will only make him hit on you harder, and with more lesbian jokes. No, it’s not worth it to keep holding your girlfriend’s hand when you’re walking home late at night and nearing a large group of unruly men.

So for every person out there who persists on thinking we’re just shoving our big gay agenda into their faces, trust me – we’ve thought about the consequences of what we’re doing a lot more than you ever have. And we do what we do because we’ve decided that it’s worth it – despite all the bullshit – to be who we are. Because to self-censor ourselves for other people’s so-called comfort isn’t doing the world any favors. In fact, it hurts the world to let this double standard exist that says one kind of love is more acceptable than another kind of love. We think long and hard and endlessly about many of the simple gestures that straight people just take for granted.

So each time gay people demand to be treated equal, cry foul against discrimination and simply dare to give the person we love a kiss before the plane takes off, we chip away at that double standard. We stake our claim on our own equality. We say, I have the right to do this. If that makes you uncomfortable world, well, that’s your fucking problem. It’s not excessive to kiss someone you love, Southwest Airlines. And it is definitely worth it.


EDIT: Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey of Uh Huh Her have released an official statement about their Kissgate. It reads, in part:
We believe everyone has the right to live openly in this society as equals. In no way were our actions on Southwest Airlines excessive, inappropriate or vulgar. We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one, modest kiss. We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple.

Exactly, ladies. Exactly.

56 comments:

*** GayGirl *** said...

"So for every person out there who persists on thinking we’re just shoving our big gay agenda into their faces, trust me – we’ve thought about the consequences of what we’re doing a lot more than you ever have."

Well put, Snarker! In fact, I think you just explained it all pretty perfectly.

Straight people (even the very best and most supportive of them) will never actually understand that this is everyday reality for us.

Even when it's the most simple of gestures that straight people would never think twice about... Except when they happen to see a gay couple doing the very same thing, which is exactly why my “Is It Worth It?”-meter is always on, and I ALWAYS - without exception - consider the consequences!

Anonymous said...

Southwest also pulled a woman from her flight for flying while Muslim (http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/03/16/southwest-apologizes-for-removing-muslim-passenger-from-flight/). They're a very charming airline, really.

Anonymous said...

My first thought when I heard news of this was that yeah sure the airline should be able to tell people to keep it in their pants if they are going at it, fair enough. Like, nothing to do with gay v straight, but more to do with yikes i think im catching a STD with my eyes.

Two seconds after this thought, I was like, erm hang on Leisha Hailey, who is like the epitome of cool. No way would she be tacky. It is obviously just some small kiss that some stewardperson has got on their high horse. I say steward cos how in heck could it be the passengers? It's not as if their seats would be facing backward and raised for a show. The people in front wouldnt see it, the people behind wouldn't see it only in the seats directly behind and then that is only barely - and then hailey would have heard them making a complaint. The people on the side wouldnt be looking - i mean that is the law not to make eye contact with people on a plane. So none of it makes any sense.

JellyManKelly said...

This slow clap is for you, Ms. Snarker, and for Ms. Hailey. Thank you for lending your voice and your notoriety to this. It is comforting to know that there is a safe and sym(and em)pathetic place we can go to rage, cry, laugh, protest, talk, and read about such things without fear of retribution or incrimination simply because we're a little different. Make no mistake, I adore 'Tank Top Tuesday', 'Gender Fuck Thursday', and all things Tina Fey as much as the next gay lady (admittedly the last perhaps not as devotedly as you), but I also really love that you can always be counted on to dive right into the nitty-gritty when shit gets heavy. You make me proud to be gay, but what's more, you make me glad to be gay. So again, from my very depths, thank you. Please don't ever change.

JellyManKelly said...

P.S. It's ALICE. How does EVERYONE not find everything she does the MOST ADORABLE EVER!? It truly boggles the mind...

TrueTor said...

This kind of thinking just pisses me off. I had a therapist who when I tried to explain the whole having to censor my actions with my gf in public, assumed this meant I was mauling my gf. Needless to say I left that completely incompetent therapist.

Thank you for once again eloquently putting into words what I have repeatedly tried to explain to many straight people. Even family members. Being out and visible is so important. My "Is It Worth It" meter is always on but I usually answer yes. It's worth it because if I can make it slightly better for anyone else than I will.

Anonymous said...

This is unfortunate because I like Southwest Airlines, now they go and do somehing totally asinine.

techgirl67 said...

I wanted to share the comment I made on Southwest Airlines Facebook page (before I "unliked" them).
"Before I unlike your page, please know that I will never book a flight with you...ever. I'm sure this makes your "family friendly" passengers and bigoted stewards/stewardesses/pilots extremely happy. Keep up the good Christian behavior of judging other and feeling superior to anyone you "believe" to be less of a human than yourselves. Karma be with you."

As always Dorothy, you hit the nail on the head and say exactly what needs to be said. I for one will boycott this airline.

ALICE RULES!

Eleni K. said...

Let me just say that I couldn't agree more with your point of view. However, consider yourself very lucky to be living in a country (or at least a state) that incidents like this one get to go public and even become incidents in the first place!
I live in Greece, a country that, in my opinion, is only good for visiting, has absolutely no legal recognition of gay/lesbian couples or their common life and argues that "we have more serious problems right now than legalizing gays"!
Well, not everything is about money you know. I would like to be able to have a family with my GF and not just pay for the mistakes of my government.
It's pretty important to me, you know!
P.S.: Your blog is a breath of fresh air every day. Thank you!

Kristan said...

Since I don't know the details of the incident, or any of the other SWA incidents, I'm not speaking to that part of this. What I want to say, though -- to applaud, really -- is how moving and well-written and important this post is. It's important for people to know about the "is it worth it?" meter. Not because we won't understand, but because we WILL. Because everyone has those moments occasionally, and we can only imagine how difficult it must be to live a lifetime full of them.

So thank you. Thank you for writing this. For being a champion of yourself, and in doing so, a champion of women everywhere.

Lydia Sharp said...

A million thank-yous for writing this post.

Anonymous said...

beautifully written, and quite inspiring.

I, on the other hand, am not as eloquent so I'll just say... F SW!

catvix said...

Dorothy - can I just say that I'm sorry to see you've had to interrupt your usual Tank Top Tuesday coverage because of South West's actions. Thank you for doing it though, as it is important.
Also thank you for putting into words that inner monitor. Oddly enough I get that when I'm considering PDA with men (I'm bi), but in that case the question is "Is it fair to do this when I wouldn't be able to with a girl?" rather than "Is it worth it?"

I will say this to GayGirl though - although I agree with you that most straight couples don't have to worry about whether a PDA is worth it, I wouldn't be so sure that none do.
For instance, I wouldn't be surprised if in a racist community couples from different races have the same self censor. Also, in Northern Ireland I'm sure there are Protestants in relationships with Catholics who worry about what people might think. Discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes.

Wegan said...

Greatly put, agree with everything you said!

M x www.whatwegandidnext.com

shade said...

'is it worth it meter?'..... some people will never know DS. you hit the nail on the head.

the_deuceCuatro said...

I took a different approach in my response [www.erinsteven.blogspot.com]. We don't need to mobilize lesbians [or anyone with a soul] to feel angry about this, that comes with the territory of being "us." I took the business-perspective approach. BAD BUSINESS, Southwest, plain and simple.

Fisherwoman28 said...

Hey straight girl here (hopefully one of the "best and most supportive of them") with a younger lesbian sister...

I'm lucky in the sense that I've never had to use my "Is It Worth It?" meter (at least when it comes to public display of affection... I'm "different" in many other ways and therefore need meter control for that ;) ) But I just wanted to say that please always make it worth it... because it is worth it... I want my sister to grow up in a world where she can be with whomever she wants and display her love however she feels. Maybe it's not quite a reality for her but hopefully it will be for my imaginary kids, her kids... my grandkids. And that is only possible if people like you (Miss Snarker) keep pointing these things out to the rest of the world.

Shannon said...

BRAVO Dorothy! Bravo!

betsyh23 said...

"“Is It Worth It?” Meter. It’s that meter tells us how fully we can be ourselves and when it is worth the consequences."
Well said, as always, your insight and thoughtfulness is much appreciated. Thank you Ms. Snarker.

E.T. said...

Another reason I chose Sweden over any other European country. Such an incident would make one rich. BIG FAT LAWSUIT. Not that it would ever occur, hypothetically speaking.
Despicable, I share your rage D.

Anonymous said...

Can I get an Amen?!
Sometimes straight people can be so thick.

Also, thank you for letting us know that Southwest did us wrong.

vrgriffith said...

We're three months from 2012 people.SWA has had a string of incidences.

I think GLAAD, HRC,& NGLT should meet with officials at SWA.

I also think the LGBT community should boycott SWA.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Dot, well said!

jellyrollfortheearhole said...

Since none of us know the situation first hand, and in an attempt to understand the intentions of those involved, I'm wondering if this situation has more to do with a passenger's reaction rather than the actual event.

The accusation here of homophobia is a substantial one. If in fact these PDAing women were victimized for merely partaking in the kinds of expressions of affection typical among loving heteros then the response of the attendants was outrageous. On that we can all agree. But as we've also seen with other recent high profile passenger removals that airlines in general, and apparently this one in particular, have a zero-tolerance (if unofficial) policy to passenger kerfuffles. It makes sense when considering the responses to too low pants, too short skirt, too large for the seat, too Muslim, too loud, too drunk, and all other examples of passengers not only being ushered off of planes but, even worse, planes making unscheduled stops or getting military escorts because people were holed up too long in the bathrooms. These are paranoid times and airlines are taking very seriously imagined "security threats" and their ability to keep passengers under tight control. (Remember the flight attendent who lost it and deplaned on the slide?) Unless the flight attendants involved here have a love of confrontation I can't imagine why they'd want to invite all of this trouble upon themselves unless they thought the situation before them was quite serious. (If you've ever worked a service related job you know what I'm talking about.)

Interesting also to note that you'd think these events would be public relations nightmares but instead seem to have left little lasting damage. No one seems to be boycotting these airlines in any noticeable numbers.

folkpants said...

Thank you so much for this post.

Anonymous said...

Even though I dislike Southwest Airlines (for other reasons), I reserved judgment on this issue because I don't like to jump on any side until I know the facts. If they were making out, I would say the airline was in its rights to ask them to stop (as it should with straight couples acting the same way). But after reading Leisha and Camilla's statement today I have no reason to disbelieve their version of events. If seeing two women sharing a kiss makes people uncomfortable, so what? Get over it. That should have been Southwest's response.

Song1964 said...

Indeed, what straight people take for granted... Thank you for this righteously angry article.

Anonymous said...

As a straight, single for pretty much all my life because I don't fit the 'ideals' put out there, I tend to look away whenever people start kissing, but that's my problem, because it reminds me that I'll never have that, and it doesn't matter what gender the couple are. You're absolutely right when you say it's their own insecurities, possibly coupled with a bit of authority given to someone who shouldn't have it. And yeah, I've seen some straight couples going way over the top on planes, and especially here in the Czech Republic on public transport, sometimes I really do feel like I want to draw a curtain and give them some privacy, and never once have I heard someone complain.

What always makes me laugh in a way with incidents like these is that, for most of the time, the people involved will claim to be the most liberal minded, fair, non bigoted people in the world, fully supportive of gay rights, with a little caveat - so long as it's not in our face where we actually have to think about it.

Maggie said...

Normally I'm on the "well, let's wait and see" side of arguments like this. I think most PDAs are gross, and what is a quick kiss for one person is a makeout session to another.
But Dorothy brings up a good point. It wouldn't MATTER where on the kissyface spectrum it was with a straight couple. We don't vote on whether or not straight couples get to be gross in public, but we DO vote on whether or not gay couples can act the same way.
So I don't actually care what it was Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend were doing. It's not "equality except for the gross stuff". It's equality, period, and this goes against it. There's no reason for them to get kicked off a plane for something a straight couple could do without comment.

suhh said...

i love your post *.* :) IT'S ALL WORTH IT!

Chele said...

I find it ironic they are currently advertising all over the AE pages right now.

Oh Southwest get your corporate policy to reach your employees ---- cause it's clearly NOT.

I couldn't say it better then you did DS!!!

Fraggle Ra said...

thank you snarker! I say, when they start messing with Alice, its PERSONAL!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm a fourteen year-old girl that recently discovered that I'm, well, bisexual. I came out to my best friend last week, but I still feel so, well, alone. I'm lucky as hell because I have such a supportive friend, but she still doesn't get it. Even close to it. And once or twice, she's even said things that just made me want to a) punch her, and/or b) curl up in my bed and cry.
But just reading this post? It made me tear-up. Because, Ms. Surrenders, you get it. So, so much. I'm about as far into the closet as one can get (and I am pretty sure I am never coming out,) but everything resonated with me so, so much. My friends are very touchy-feely and sometimes, one of them will hold my hand in public, and every time that happens I start to panic. I have that same "Is it worth it meter?" in my head, and it's, like you said, always on.
Thank you so much. I'm getting rambl-y and incoherent now, and this is like the lamest comment ever, but, wow, I just feel so connected. People get it. I mean, I knew others would, but it makes such an impact to read about it.

Anonymous said...

It makes me want to go to Women's week in Provincetown, so I can throw my "is it worth it?" meter away for a few days. So very true Ms Snarker.

Norma Desmond said...

I really don't have much to add to what you and everyone else said. Mostly, this incident makes me sad. Sad that things are still like this in the 21st century, sad that they're like this in a supposedly progressive country of equality, sad that they're like this... well, just like this.

The optimist in me has to believe that, someday, things like this won't happen anymore. The pragmatist in me just reads about these kind of incidents and just shakes her head, discouraged.

Thank you for this wonderful post. Clearly, it's full of things that needed to be said and that we needed to hear.

Patricia Saccento said...

It is really sad that there is still so much ignorance in the world we live in.

Tim Rooch said...

Huzzah Leisha grrr arrgh SouthWest.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that Camilla and Leisha are a couple? I missed this somehow.

Karen said...

Excellent post! Well said - and no more Southwest for us. How could anyone kick Alice off an airplane? What idiots.

Anonymous said...

"They say when gay people kiss in public they “want attention” or are “rubbing it in other people’s faces” or “whatever other homophobic bullshit I can say to mask the deep insecurity I feel about my own sexuality and that one time at summer camp with my cute counselor.” To those people I want to make a rational argument about how affection between straight and gay couples is no different, and what is acceptable for one should be just as acceptable for the other. But mostly I just want to tell those people to go fuck themselves. Truly, I could not be more sincere about that."

This statement is as ignorant as what southwest did. are you joking? 'if you dont agree with me, fuck you, also a bunch of immature insults'. If you want to have a reasonable, logical discussion about why what they did was morally wrong or bad for business (both arguable) then do so, dont accuse them of doing something wrong and then immediately do the same thing. its plain hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

also several of the comments on this are fairly bigoted.
"Keep up the good Christian behavior of judging other and feeling superior to anyone you"
"Sometimes straight people can be so thick."
"what straight people take for granted..."

Mary said...

Perhaps you don't know the definition of "bigoted."

Anonymous said...

I wrote Southwest Air and told them I would no longer fly them. I fly several times a month, often with my daughter. As a lesbian mom I don't see the point in giving my gay money to them. Perhaps they should spend some of their profits training their employees (many of whom are gay btw) what constitutes "family" friendly behavior. Alaska Airlines here I come...

Ang715 said...

Once aagin, Ms. Snarker, from someone who cannot express themselves even as close to eloquently as you can, you are my hero.

SlyNellie said...

Two weeks ago on SWA, I had the pleasure of chatting with a very black, very gay flight attendant about our favorite shades of lip glaze. It was more than a little cool because this wouldn't have happened a decade or two ago. And he gave me extra pretzels. Yet, all I could think about was being 10,000 feet in the air. In a giant tin coffin. Over a cold ocean. Or really rugged rocks. Surrounded by screaming kids and older man with flatulence. The last thing I was worrying about was PDA of any kind from anyone.

So, the next time you're 10,000 feet above this glorious Earth and you're not contemplating all of the horrific ways to perish because you're too busy fretting about two girls kissing, well, then you're obviously not afraid to die. Do everyone else a huge favor and drop dead! Merci.

hotfemmeinthecity said...

It's ridiculous that Southwest continues to defend their actions instead of apologizing. They have a long history of discrimination and they need to acknowledge it and let the public know how they plan on remedying it.

Luckily, they picked on the wrong lesbians. It's great how Leisha quickly got this into the public eye on such a large scale.

doulamama said...

Maybe I'm a little sensitive to this today. My daughter and her new wife were on their way to their Honeymoon in Hawaii yesterday...it would break my heart if they had to leave their flight because they chose to share a kiss. I think it was the kids at their wedding who will be the luckiest to have witnessed their commitment to each other...they will never question "gay marriage" they will know that people get married...sometimes it's a man and a woman but sometimes it's two women or two men. A family is a family is a family.

Anonymous said...

Sad when the zealous right wing of a country can confiscate the word "family" and use it to demean another very loving segment of the same country.

Joel Bradshaw said...

Thanks for the details. I hope (but am not holding my breath) that Southwest, who likes to tout its GLBT friendliness, will change its tune.

Also, your link to the Uh Huh Her statement at the bottom of the article seems to have a stray quote attached to it, which is making it not go through.

Joel Bradshaw said...

It appears Southwest has issued an update claiming that it was a loud and profane confrontation (presumably arising after they were told to quit the PDA) that ultimately led to their removal. Still no apologies for the original discrimination, though.

Anonymous said...

'Profane language'?

It's a joke, right?

bean said...

About 2 years ago, my wife, our daughter (just over a year old at the time), and I were held up at the gate by a Southwest gate agent who challenged our eligibility for family boarding. The flight was already delayed, but still she demanded to know which of us was the "real" mother. She said, "you can't tell me you both gave birth to her." She finally let us on when we asked her whether she would ask heterosexual couples whether they were the "real" parents of their children.

I wrote a very angry letter to Southwest once we reached cruising altitude, and a few weeks later I got a very apologetic letter in reply. Though we haven't had any problems on subsequent flights, every time we get to the gate, I worry that we're going to get the third degree all over again.

And this happened in Baltimore--the same airport where I hear Leisha Hailey's flight originated. Coincidence??

Get Set.Go said...

people be trippinnnnnnnn...

I'm kind of glad this happened to one of the most popular lesbians known to the lesbian kingdom so now straight people can see that they are being just a little ridiculous.

CoffeeDog said...

Excellent post! I like the way you nailed the self-censoring, so true!

Mike said...

It seems like our culture is so afraid of sexually. People should be able to express their love. It's not like they were going further then kissing. Straight people kiss all the time and nobody has a problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I may be straight, but Southwest Airlines can kiss my a**. I have friends, who when the see a straight couple literally making out in public, their like, "Eh, whatever." They see a gay couple, and they get this disgusted look on their faces! So, naturally, I MUST slap them. So my sister and I have this amazing friend, her name's Ally, and as soon as my sister found out that she was bisexual, my sister won't talk to Ally anymore. So, I must say: WHY ARE SOME STRAIGHT PEOPLE SO RUDE!?!?! WTF IS WRONG WITH THE GLBT (Sorry if that is wrong ^.^) COMUNITY?!?!?!!!!