Few things have such a troublesome relationship as luggage and air travel. They rely heavily on one another, yet so often land each other in trouble.
Jetstar, a discount subsidiary airline of Qantas in Australia and New Zealand, now knows this better than most, after a man tweeted a photo of his luggage, which appeared to have been defaced by Jetstar employees. Written on the bag, in large block letters formed by luggage tags, were the words, "I AM GAY."
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An unnamed father of two, the man explained in a blog post devoted to the subject that his bag was the first on the luggage carousel after the flight. Everyone was packed in to find their items, he recalled. He also admitted to being "taken aback" at first, then ashamed as he grabbed the suitcase "and had many eyes look [him] up and down."
He went on to write:
I ... thought I had thick enough skin to ignore the leering. ... 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.
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. ... 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.
He has called on Jetstar to use the incident as a learning opportunity instead of simply firing those responsible and moving on. "I'd rather have broad consciousness raising over job losses," he writes.
A Jetstar spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald the company was conducting a "thorough investigation" and added, "We are taking this matter very seriously and we have contacted the passenger to apologise for any distress caused."