Australian airline plasters ‘I Am Gay’ on passenger’s suitcase

A passenger flying from Perth to Brisbane on Jetstar Airlines this weekend saw his suitcase tumble into the carousel at baggage check, and while it was sticker-free when he checked it, it came out looking like this:

It was no doubt a juvenile pranked pulled by some arrested-development case working the luggage that day. But whoever plastered “I Am Gay” on this guy’s suitcase didn’t plan on him being an avid blogger and social media enthusiast.

The man, who we can assume is named Aaron based on his Twitter account, immediately tweeted out a pic, called out the airline, and took to his personal blog to write a touching missive about tolerance:

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.

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.

The attention had the airline’s PR department scrambling for damage control. In a statement Jetstar said “We are taking this matter very seriously and we have contacted the passenger to apologize for any distress caused.” Aaron confirms that the airline contacted him to apologize, saying they’re launching a “serious investigation” into how this could have happened and that the PR department is “saying all the right things.”

Bummer, but good on this guy for turning it into a win.