Has everyone grown tired of the Chick-fil-A debate? Probably. After all, there’re plenty of more pressing issues on the national front and around the world. Does that mean that I’ll let the issue fade away? As much as I’d like to, I’m genetically predisposed to be an outspoken loudmouth.
When I start thinking about why this whole hullabaloo aggravates me so, I’m offered not-so-gentle, unexpected reminders. Like when I got pretty sick this past weekend, and my boyfriend had to take me to an urgent care clinic to determine why my brain decided to catch on fire and disturb my tenuous, shallow sleep with hallucinatory dreams. Unlike most of the population, we had some additional baggage walking through the doors: should I collapse and be scooted next door to the hospital, he’d have no right to see me. When you’re feeling less than sub-par, the last thing you want to worry about is your significant other being left to wonder where in the hell you’ve been taken.
But we ended up walking out together, and strolling into the hospital lab for me to get blood drawn. Still, the accusing stares of some hospital staff conveyed a clear message: You’re different, and we don’t have to play by your rules. Three vials of blood later and we were walking back out together.
And since my boyfriend is a knight in shining armor and knows that sweets make everything better, we went to a local sweets shop that has recently been supportive of the LGBT community. Interestingly, it’s situated just across the street from a Chick-fil-A. Unbeknownst to me, as we waited in line, a teenage couple found us to be an amusing spectacle and occupied their time with making sad, pathetic hand gestures and glances in our general direction (they got the limp wrist all wrong). Now, it’s not the first time such smirks or head nods were used to openly convey some bigots’ disapproval toward me or my friends. Whether such actions transform later in life to shouted epithets or physical violence toward LGBTQ individuals isn’t the issue (it’s a major issue, but not this one). The issue I constantly grapple with is why do people think they can still do this, in public no less, to people who are just going about their day–getting health-related issues checked, getting gelato to recuperate from a taxing day? Perhaps it’s because it’s trendy to normalize and rationalize hate and hateful organizations’ actions. Enter again: the Chick-fil-A debate.
We can blame a lot of the sensationalism around such debates on the media; collectively, they’re an easy enough scapegoat and have to drive up their ratings somehow. But I think people often deflect too much–don’t take enough responsibility for their actions, even if they’re seemingly insignificant. Whether you’re ordering a cake from a bigoted baker or eating at Chick-Fil-A, you’re underwriting the hate they promulgate with profits you helped create. Does this mean that such businesses don’t also do good things with their profits? Of course not. But should you succumb to apathy, remain silent, and endorse hatred of any minority group a business or corporation decides to target? No.
For those who are able, who are fortunate enough to have access to quality food vendors–to businesses or farmers who support you–why not expend that extra block’s walk or five-minute drive to support a business that supports you? Is convenience really worth becoming kitchenfellows with self-identified bigots? Do I sound like a privileged asshole? Slightly.
But here’s the thing: I’m nowhere close to wealthy. Does that mean that I don’t sometimes spend imprudently? No. Like many of my generation, I live paycheck to paycheck and have no job-related benefits, and will only be able to retire when I’m dead. I have a 3-hour roundtrip commute to work, and pay nearly $350 in monthly gas expenses, not to mention car maintenance. But does that mean that I’d rather stop at a Chick-fil-A instead of waiting to get home to a box of produce from a locally-owned LGBT business that supports local farmers–the weekly cost of which is equivalent to about five chicken sandwiches and nowhere near the 1400 grams of sodium or 440 calories per sandwich? Hell. Fucking. No.
My point is this: If you can find an alternative to a hateful business–not just Chick-fil-A, but the entire gamut–why not do so? When I learn of any business that is anti-LGBT or against any minority, I cross them off my list if they’re on it. No quibbling, no apologies. While it may seem insignificant to omit a sandwich from your life, you’re doing more than a favor to your body–you’re being an example, showing others that you will not support an organization that will never miss your patronage and never wanted it in the first place. Hell, if the Jim Henson Company can end a 50-year relationship with Chick-fil-A over their stance on gay marriage, you can at least take your chicken craving to KFC.
Do I think that Chick-fil-A will ever go bankrupt? Probably not, unless their bigwigs get caught at some rest stops choking different kinds of chicken. Do I think it’s fair for businesses to be barred from setting up shop in certain areas (even if I cheered at the stalwart Boston and Chicago mayors’ opposition)? No, because that shoe can easily be slipped on the other foot. Do I secretly want to smack hipsters upside their heads for eating at Chick-fil-A to be counter counter-culture, alternative, and misunderstood? God, yes. Do I care that a local Chick-fil-A franchise is owned by an LGBTQ individual? Hell no. While I don’t presume to know their rationale–maybe they’re valiantly trying to make inroads–a portion of their profits still goes to the parent corporation. So, yes, kudos to Raleigh’s Cameron Village Chick-fil-A for their hideous monstrosity, and for ruining the residual character of the historically-interesting Cameron Village; I never thought I’d say or write that I preferred a parking lot over a building. But I do.
More importantly, though, do I think this debate is worth castigating friends–some of whom are LGBTQ–who choose to patronize the business? No. We all are free to express our opinions, even if we differ. For me, it’s not about the flair of abstaining–the “look how awesome I am” drivel people like to cite for self-aggrandizing purposes–but knowing on a personal level that I’m made of sterner stuff.
At least more so than something steeped in bigotry and warmed under a heat lamp.