This past Tuesday, the editor of The Lancaster News called after reading my blog entry “Born this Way.” He asked if I would be willing to publish it in the paper as a column. Without hesitation, I said yes. I agreed to share my truth in hopes that maybe somewhere in this little southern town someone might need to know that they are not alone and that they are not wrong. So here is my touched-up version that ran in The Lancaster News June 19.
Born this way: Glad to have employer who welcomes all
I’ll never forget her storming into Starbucks dripping wet from the rain.
She had just bought two gift cards from me at the drive-through window. I had taken extra time to gather several different gift cards to offer her a good selection to pick from.
She marched to the front register asking for a refund. I asked as I passed by what was wrong. She said, “I don’t need them anymore.”
I was totally confused. She had just bought them three minutes ago. She was so out of sorts. She had only brought one of the two cards back in. So she ran back out in the rain to her car to find it. She returned and the cashier refunded her money.
As she left, she said it was because she was a Christian and was offended by my gay pride pin. Wonder if she thought I was gay? Wonder why it matters….
She was angry and self-righteous and would not look at me once she was inside the store. Wow.
This is not about whether or not I am gay, but since the subject has been broached, yes I am. Most people who know me know this.
And I wish it were a non-issue, but it isn’t. That woman’s judgment and the look on her face won’t go away. I know it is about the intolerance in her and has nothing to do with me. So, it’s her issue. Not mine.
Yet, it brings up ugly remnants of a rough road I traveled over four decades to get here. I have sometimes envied the acceptance offered to the younger generation, but I fear it is not as available as I thought it was.
It reminds me of the times a cousin of mine has seen me out in public with my partner and she will talk to me and look at me but will not look at or acknowledge my partner. It’s not that hard, people.
Maybe she didn’t really know the nature of my relationship with this person, or maybe she did. But as the Christian she claims to be, would she not speak to that person just because she is a friend of mine? And to no surprise, her daughter later saw us out and did the same thing.
After work, I came home and turned on the news and saw a bloody lesbian couple that were beaten up on a double-decker bus in London. They were young. One’s nose was broken.
I’ve been harassed. I’ve tiptoed around the issue. But I’ve never lied about who I am. I’ve been called names – really bad names. These women reported similar harassment before they were attacked. My heart breaks because I thought human consciousness was evolving.
June is gay pride month at Starbucks. On any given day this month, we will all be wearing gay pride shirts with a Lady Gaga quote on the back: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” On the front are the words “All Together Now.” One sleeve has the Starbucks logo with the word PRIDE underneath it. The other sleeve has “Born This Way Foundation” printed on it.
I do believe I was born this way. And I have made a choice to live my truth. Sadly, I have friends who are in their 50s who hide who they are because of backlash from people like this woman. They live their lives for people like that rather than for themselves. Some are waiting for their parents or grandparents to die, and some just move away.
As a rule, I don’t flag wave, and I’ve never been to a gay pride parade. But I do tell the truth. I’d rather you hate me for who I am rather than love me for being who you want me to be.
I’m grateful to Starbucks for the acceptance they offer to everyone – even those who choose to hate.
I wish I could have talked to the woman about love and inclusion and that she too is welcome at Starbucks. On Monday mornings, a men’s Bible Study group meets there. A member of the night shift tells me a prayer group sometimes meets in the evenings.
College students, blue-collar workers, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, atheists, Catholics, Baptists, lawyers, city officials, WNBA players, and the list goes on. Starbucks has a culture of inclusion.
All customers are the same. All are equal.
Mandy Catoe is an award-winning former TLN reporter, a yoga instructor and a Starbucks barista. She lives in Lancaster.