I have to toss my hat in the ring on this Bailey Hanks feeding frenzy. I just returned from a seven-week stint in Birmingham, Alabama playing Emmett to her sparkling Elle and Bailey Hanks is charming and sweet, just as I expected her to be.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I fully support a strong fight for equality and have been quite vocal in that charge. It upsets me that the president of Chik-fil-A donates significant funds to organizations that work hard to keep me less-than-equal in the United States. Seeing so many people turn out to glibly support a company’s thinly veiled PR campaign (“Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day”) turned my stomach. And yes, Bailey Hanks did tweet a photo of her meal on that day.
Which brings us to the crux of the issue: Bailey Hanks is not mean spirited nor is she outwardly hateful to the gays in her life. Neither is she terribly worldly nor strikingly politically active. I can’t expect everyone in my life to agree with my opinions, but I do expect my colleagues to treat me with respect in the workplace. And whether or not Bailey believes me to be living in sin, she was kind and generous in the theatre, treating me like anyone else in the cast regardless of sexual orientation.
And I don’t presume her to be duplicitous in the least. But even if she is being two-faced, I can hardly hold that against her. To quote my dear RuPaul, “What other people think of me is none of my damn business.” Now, what other people say and do to me are entirely my business, and by those standards Bailey is a friend.
I honestly believe that Bailey Hanks posted that photo of her meal because she loves those damn chicken sandwiches SO MUCH. Typing the caption for her Instagram, I can’t imagine her thinking, “Hahahaha, fuck you GayMerica! I’ll eat this sandwich and trample on your rights.” Is inadvertent support for inequality still offensive? Absolutely. Do I think her action stems from ignorance rather than hate? 100%.
Ignorance is never an excuse, but it is frequently an explanation.
It’s easy to slam her in this situation. Her post coincided with a Facebook avalanche of pithy photos and quotes taking up arms against Chik-fil-A. How could she not know what she was doing? But to assume she’s a bigot and that she’s schemingly used the gays for her own personal gain is too simple. The challenging option here is to ask her how she feels. Is Bailey informed on the issues facing gay citizens today? I don’t know, I never asked her. Perhaps some of you got in touch with Bailey before going live with your posts, but surely she had already received enough vitriol to properly push her into disappearance. Our path to equality is paved in education, not excoriation. Inviting our opponents into dialogue is essential to moving forward.
And yes, there are times to scream. When Rick Santorum likens my homosexuality to polygamy, incest and adultery? I will be loud. When Bailey Hanks posts a photo of her meal, a picture that unashamedly supports my foe? I will be kind.
Here’s where I stand: Bailey, I know you, I know you’re a good person. I’d like to hear how you feel about marriage equality and gay rights in America. If you agree with my stances, fantastic. I’ll kindly ask you to rethink your support of Chik-fil-A and know that we all have to pick our battles. If you disagree with my views (as is your prerogative), then I invite you talk. I’d like to understand where you’re coming from and hope to share my path with you as well. Now, there is a third option. If you neither agree nor disagree with my opinions on gay rights, but rather, have little information on the current events, I’d like to help you understand what’s happening in this country right now. Deal?
I am a gay man and among my many parents are lesbian mothers. The legal challenges facing my family are absurd and unfair. I hope that my rights aren’t subject to money spent at a fast-food joint. I want to get married and I want to continue working with the same wonderful people I’ve had the honor of working with in NYC and abroad. Bailey, I count you among those people. I hope you think as highly of me, but more than that, I hope (and presume) you want to learn about the adversity your colleagues face every day. I don’t doubt that you are and will continue to be an advocate for equality. I know it’s in your heart.
My reaction to a reader on Facebook who questioned why Bailey hasn’t responded more quickly with something other than her religion as defense:
I see your point, wanting Bailey to mount a stronger defense than “I’m a Christian.” But in all the time I worked with her I never experienced cleverly stated, scholarly-wrought arguments and discussion from Bailey. That’s not who she is. Why expect her to flourish with wit and intelligence now, under fire? In fact, she responded just as I thought she would. When we’re put in a corner most of us fall back on the things that are basic to us, and for Bailey that is her relationship with Christ. I don’t think she means to avoid defense by invoking religion, I actually think she has no other way to explain herself. She’s defended her actions in the most heartfelt and logical way she can think of. It may not be what you want to hear, but why expect a cat to bark?
We use the words we know in the ways we understand. I’m trying to hear Bailey in her language, not mine.
Hey there Dan,
I’m the guy who kinda started this whole thing. And I thank you for your thoughts. For the record, I don’t believe Bailey deserves quite the level of anger and vitriol that has been leveled at her. Unfortunately I have no control over how people respond. I do know however, that when people feel hurt and betrayed – especially after a lifetime of hearing “there’s something wrong with you,” it’s easy to lash out.
I spent my whole life doing theatre, and feeling like there was something wrong with me. I made it to New York and I was where I belonged. I was in a place of support and love – a place that my hometown never provided. And I’m not alone in that part of my journey. So when someone in your community does something to tell you “there’s something wrong with you,” it rips the rug out from under you. And when you have that feeling, it’s frightening and frustrating.
I tried to contact Bailey through Facebook messages and Twitter and all she wrote back was “I’m a Proud Christian.” That exacerbates the problem, it doesn’t solve it. I don’t agree for a second that she happened to stumble into a Chick-fil-A on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day with no clue as to what it was all about. This was one of the most covered stories I have ever seen. Every major media outlet and everyone on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and everywhere else was talking about it. It would literally be impossible to live in this country and NOT know what the situation was about.
You choose to give her the benefit of a really enormous doubt here, and that’s your prerogative. She’s your friend, I get it. But you said it all here: “Is Bailey informed on the issues facing gay citizens today? I don’t know, I never asked her.” She can say she supports gay people all she wants, but not for a second do I believe she went to Chick-fil-A and tweeted her support without knowing the implications of that. I think it’s quite possible that like many anti-gay Christians, she saw what she was doing as “Pro-Christian” and not “Anti-Gay.” But upon being told quite plainly that Chick-fil-A has given millions to groups who want to see gay people put to death in some countries, her response was not “I was unaware of that, I’m sorry.” It was “I’m a Proud Christian.” And that’s a bigger mistake than her original visit to the fast food restaurant. That’s where she essentially said “I don’t care how it makes you feel, I will continue to support this incredibly anti-gay chicken chain.”
You seem to think that because she is a “nice” person and not very bright that she isn’t a bigot. That’s nonsense. I remember my Louisiana Grandmother, whom I loved, saying was outrageous that people in the North called her prejudiced because she was an ardent supporter of segregation. She did not hate colored people, she said, and even helped some. But her Southern Baptist pastor told her that God did not want the races mixing, so she donated to the White Citizens’ Council and voted for George Wallace and every other segregationist that she could. Was she a racist? She didn’t think so, but believe me she was. Likewise, this dimwit is a bigot.
While I know she is a nice person, and not terribly educated, what I’m saying is this: If she’s bigoted, that’s her prerogative. She entered the work place with professionalism and treated me with respect. I can’t expect my colleagues to hold my opinions outside of the workplace. Though in this case, I know Bailey to be apologetic for her post. Don’t get me wrong, supporting Chik-fil-A is nowhere on my agenda, but I won’t condemn her for eating there. We all pick our battles. You don’t have to like her, you don’t have to eat at Chik-fil-A, but based on my relationship with her before this went down, I will still hold her as a friend. I will also try to engage her in dialogue to educate her on the issues that matter to me as a gay man.