Earlier this week I was discussing a potential chorus appearance on a local college campus. The director of the office of LGBT life would have to call me back, however. His office was being flooded with calls and email asking what is going to be done about a certain fast-food franchise that currently resides there; yes, the one with cows in the advertising. It seems they don’t like the gays. “It’s everywhere,” I thought. We cannot escape this. We can’t go online, to Facebook, or pick up a paper without seeing the anger – anger that has been divisive within the LGBT community itself.
I certainly can’t avoid news when I’m visiting my partner in Athens. He is one of a shrinking group of people who still read the New York Times in print. Every day he gets up, puts on coffee, turns off the alarm, and immediately goes to the driveway’s edge to fetch the precious piece of blue plastic containing the most treasured part of his morning ritual. But on this particular visit, I’m up before he is. There is thunder as I fire up the laptop, thinking to myself how the potential storm outside mirrors the bustle in the political chicken coop. Begrudgingly, I open Facebook – mainly to make sure that nothing disastrous has happened overnight. Now…had I the wisdom of my partner, I’d recognize that the New York Times is a much better source for news.
There they were – endless posts for and against the issue of whether gay people should boycott Chik-fil-a. In recent weeks I attempted to make two comments about the matter, but neither seemed to add anything relevant to the conversation. In the end, I’ve managed to say nothing about it on the social network of choice. (My mother maintains that one should not leave excrement in the same place that one feeds – a phrase to which this whole debate gives new meaning). No opinion I expressed would avoid scrutiny, so what was there to add?
But amidst all the clucking was something different today. A number of Facebook posts were pointing to a New York Times article paired with a photo of a couple I know. Before my partner had the chance, I had gone to the driveway’s edge to see if it had made the print edition. Sure enough, it had. On page A15 was a photo of two AGMC members sharing a courageous kiss in front of a particular Atlanta franchise of the chicken chain. The photo was picked-up by the AP, so it appears in many papers across the country today. Seeing it get that kind of attention provided some clarity. They had no intention of creating a story about themselves, yet they had unwittingly become the face of everyone’s story.
Amidst the arguing, we can surely agree on some basic points: It’s not about the right to conduct legal business and it’s not about freedom of speech. It’s about equality and respect for the rights and opinions of others. I applaud these two men for their courage in demonstrating an ongoing need: to allow people rights that we say they already have. My hope is that our community will not allow unbridled passion to derail us from achieving what we all want. Unfriending people who aren’t on the same side of a common goal will only set us back. Remaining strong, unified, and respectful of our diversity is a goal of the AGMC, and my hope is that we will continue to demonstrate that, onstage and off.
I can think of no better image that represents our mission than the courage of our members Jim Fortier and Mark Toomajian.
There is nothing chicken about what they did.
Kevin Robison, Artistic Director