On Jan. 7, 2013, my wife Arielle and I were milling around the house trying to decide what to eat for lunch. Being pregnant, I am very picky about what I'm in the mood for. The night before, our friends had suggested the Stingray Café because it is inexpensive and a great value. We love supporting local restaurants, so we headed over there.
The little restaurant was not very busy, but the server was friendly, and a man kept coming out to talk to us about the food while Arielle and I held hands and decided what we wanted to eat. It was a pretty uneventful lunch until we went to pay for the meal. Our check cards have the equality sign on them, and when Arielle used it to pay for our meal, she noticed our server rolling her eyes at the owner (the man who kept coming to talk to us while we were eating).
Noting a "ring the bell if you love Jesus" sign on the way out, and having a brief discussion about what a neat idea it was, Arielle and I continued to hold hands as we walked back to our car. However, the owner, who was holding an envelope in his hand, stopped us. He asked us if we went to church. This was not the first time we had been asked this in North Carolina, so immediately we knew where this was going. We smiled and answered that we don't, and his response was, "God told me to give this to you. Read it with an open heart." My first reaction was just shock that he had the courage to give us something like that. When we opened the envelope and found that it was a handwritten letter, the shock turned into nausea and disappointment.
One of the things we keep hearing from those who think we are "whiny girls" for agreeing to go public with this story is that the owner was well within his right to give us his opinion. I suppose they would be right about the opinion part. What I find more disturbing, however, is the thinking behind this opinion. Why is it appropriate to give out letters to those whom you don't even know, based on personal feelings? Another part of this issue is that as a society, we should be actively breaking down stereotypes. He should not be assuming to know all of a population based on what he's heard and on his relationship with one person, his daughter. The fact that we are gay does not mean that we are the same. I do not claim to represent all gay people, nor does he represent all Christians, but his letter spoke as if he does.
Lesbians and gays are not monsters lurking among the normal people in your restaurant, monsters from whom you need to protect your children. We are normal people. We have children. Instead of focusing on what separates us, look at what brings us together. With the freedom to speak comes the responsibility to recognize intent, and the responsibility for the effects of your words. What was the intent of this letter? What is the intent of those who single out gays and lesbians to condemn them? If it is to pass on love and compassion, then evaluate how you do so. Writing a letter was a selfish act on his part. Handing a letter to someone you do not know and then washing your hands of the situation so that you can pat yourself on the back for doing "the right thing" is a cop-out. Do you want to spread love? Try a conversation -- not one of attack or analysis but of equal discussion. With a conversation you can see if your opinions are rooted in fear or legitimacy, and you can invite a discussion that you may learn something from. My challenge for our society is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Step back and see that regardless of sexual orientation, we are human beings, and we have the right to love those around us, to be flawed, to have opinions and to eat without being singled out as easy targets.