by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
This past weekend something incredible happened in Columbus, Ohio. Perfect strangers, many of them straight, came to the aid of two Gay men being harassed while waiting in line for a slice of pizza.
'After a fun night out in the Short North, my friend Ethan and I ventured down the street to a popular pizza truck called Mikey's Late Night Slice,' wrote Joel Diaz, chief development officer for AIDS Resource Center Ohio, in an op-ed published this week by the Huffington Post. 'As a frequent late-night visitor to the truck I knew the requisite wait in line is part of the process for securing an insanely good slice of pizza.'
It was really cold, so the two men were holding hands and standing close together to keep warm.
'We were laughing and joking about all the fun we'd had that night,' recalls Diaz. 'All of the sudden the guy in front of us turns around and tells us to cut our 'Gay shit' out.'
Diaz admits he was a bit startled by the man's words but he didn't expect what happened next. Almost every single person in line made it known to the aggressor that it was not OK for him to speak to the men like that.
'By happenstance my friend John, who is also Gay, was standing in front of him, and as he continued his rant about being disgusted by us, we both let him know that this was our city too and that we were not about to stand down to his bigoted ideas, especially not in one of the Gayest neighborhoods in town,' said Diaz. 'As he continued it was actually the straight people in line who spoke up that were so awesome.
'I didn't expect to see allies so willing to chime in and let this guy know that his hate speech wouldn't be tolerated,' Diaz continued. 'The best part, though, was as he grew more irate and vocal, the guys who work the truck stopped what they were doing and leaned towards the window and told him they would not serve him because he was spewing hate. They said they support everyone in our community, and that he should get out of line because they would not be serving him.'
The man begrudgingly got out of line and walked away, escorted by a friend who had been hanging back.
MAKING HATE HISTORY
As he left the truck with pizza in hand, Diaz says, all he could think about was 'THAT'S IT!'
'Every person who spoke up to defend us, including the pizza guys representing their business, was doing their part to make hate a thing of the past,' he said. 'I've been involved for a number of years with our movement for equality, having co-chaired the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Columbus and being involved as a community organizer, but I had never witnessed such a public display of support. It was incredibly moving.'
The next day Diaz typed a post on Facebook and shared the story, thinking his friends might enjoy reading about this display of courage. He also wanted people to appreciate a local small business standing up for them as well. What he did not expect was for the post to go viral, with people all over the country responding to the story.
'It has been shared over 900 times since Sunday morning and a version with a fantastic response from Mikey's Late Night Slice was posted to Reddit with over 266,000 views to date,' Diaz reports.
ANOTHER SIDE OF OHIO
'I think the story was so powerful because we as an LGBT community don't hear these types of stories where our allies and businesses speak up against oppressors,' he said. 'I think the fact that the story takes place in Ohio also has something to do with it.'
The state doesn't have the best reputation for LGBT rights, but Columbus, the capital, is a very progressive city. It boasts a large, active Gay population and is home to one of the largest Pride festivals in the Midwest.
'I think stories like this, shared by our LGBT friends and allies, are important because [they] give people hope and courage,' said Diaz. 'It shows that the arc of the moral universe does bend towards justice, and we are not alone in this struggle.'
Diaz ended the Facebook post by saying, 'We must never forget to speak up and make our voices heard, no matter where we find ourselves.
'I firmly believe this is how we will continue to change hearts and minds across this country and in the world but we can't do it alone - we need everyone to take up our mantle for equality and drive it forward,' said Diaz. 'I'm inspired and amazed at what has transpired with what started off as a simple post in appreciation of people who stood up for us, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share a little bit of Columbus with the world.'
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!