Legally Blonde


More thoughts on chicken…

Y’all this is part two of an ongoing discussion. For part one, click here.

I posted this originally in the comment section of my first post, but as you can see, it’s far too long to be a comment. It’s in response to Jamie McGonnigal’s comment.


Hi Jamie-

Thanks for responding, it’s great to keep the dialogue open. 

I hear you and respect the frustration and fear you feel when someone in your community does something to tell you “there’s something wrong with you.” I said this in my last post and I’ll say it again, I don’t think Bailey posted that photo to intentionally support an anti-equality platform. She is unworldly and frequently doesn’t know what’s happening around her on a large scale. Again: Ignorance is never an excuse, but it is frequently an explanation. Because I have the privilege of knowing Bailey on a personal level (a privilege that many of her digital detractors do not hold), I’m happy to give her the benefit of the doubt and progress on a platform of education. If I didn’t know Bailey as a friend would I act in the same way? I don’t know. Vitriol never seems to solve problems for me (even more so online) and I imagine that if her photo upset me I would have written a post not dissimilar to yours.

I hold divisively strong opinions on food. I am judgmental and frequently condescending in my ideals. These attitudes inform my friendships, often cutting off a relationship before it has a chance to blossom. I recognize my behavior and understand the consequences on a social level. But when I enter the workplace, these personal attitudes don’t come to the surface. They may ruin a friendship, but I’ll never hold them over a colleague during rehearsal or performance. Now, I know that likening food politics to gay rights can seem like a comparison between a hamster and a horse, but my point is this: Bailey may or may not hold beliefs that are offensive to both you and me, but when it comes to the work, she never once treated me any differently than another cast member. Though I believe Bailey doesn’t think any less of me because of my orientation, if she does, that’s her prerogative. She showed up to work every day and did her job without her personal beliefs in the way.

I can’t and don’t expect everyone I work with professionally to hold the same values and opinions as me. In this instance, I met Bailey and had the pleasure of working with her before I saw the picture. My relationship with Bailey informed my reaction to her Facebook post. The opposite holds true for most people condemning her: They saw Bailey’s Facebook post, and their reaction to that post informed their relationship (digitally and/or professionally) with her. 

Here’s the catch: I have the privilege of knowing her. If I witnessed the photo post before I started rehearsal with her would I walk in with assumptions about her character? Yep, I’m not above that. But would I let my assumptions get in the way of my work? Would I treat her with less respect than my other cast mates because of something I saw her post online? That would be unprofessional. It doesn’t seem fair to judge a colleague on his or her outside-of-the-workplace beliefs. On the other hand, if I saw that picture first and assumed Bailey to be rampantly homophobic would I let it get in the way of a potential friendship? Probably, and that would be my myopic loss in this case.

You claim the privilege of not having control over how your post is interpreted and multiplied online, a privilege and responsibility we all have to own in the digital age. And it’s a privilege I give to Bailey as well. I believe she really didn’t think that picture was anything other than a shot of her soon-to-be-consumed meal. In light of current events, her picture was multiplied and interpreted quite easily as a homophobic attack. Is it her privilege to post her meal online and leave it open to interpretation? Yep, just like your post and my post. Is it also her responsibility to acknowledge the picture and its negative interpretations. Absolutely. 

And she did respond. When contacted, Bailey said “I’m a proud Christian.” And again, this was taken to mean astoundingly different things by many opposing parties. You said her use of those words exacerbated the problem. I will say this: our personal interpretations of her use of those words exacerbated the problem. When religion and politics meet we have to acknowledge not only the words being used, but our own unique ways of hearing those words. God, Christian, Gay, Rights, Proud- these are all charged words. They have stark meanings to both speakers and listeners. I believe what Bailey meant and what was heard are incompatible. 

I appreciate that you expressed your disappointment in Bailey via twitter after seeing her post. And she actually said more than simply “I’m a proud Christian.” She wrote: “on my behalf being a Christian doesn’t mean I hate gays! That’s crazy I love them and ask anyone I’ve worked w. I understand…). But by the time you got to your second question via twitter and your original post (“Do u know Chickfila gives millions to anti-gay groups who fight to have gays put to death? Doesn’t sound Christian to me”), she was already buried under negative (and violent and nasty) comments on every wing of her digital persona. I understand why she locked her twitter account.

I would like Bailey and many of my coworkers to be better informed of the world’s issues. But they aren’t. And, egotistically, I would like to believe that the issues that matter most to me are of equal importance to the rest of the country. But they aren’t. If Bailey were more eloquent she might have used different words to defend her actions, she might have been effusive in her response. But Bailey isn’t a scholar, and it’s unfair of me to expect her to write or speak in that manner. She, and many people who hold disparate opinions from me, effectively speak another language. I don’t expect her to speak mine, though with the privilege of education, I think I can understand hers.

When I talk to Bailey in her language, a language rife with references to God and Religion, I don’t hear hate. I hear a practiced vocabulary, words that have been taught to her by people who may have used them for hate in the past, but words that are meant genuinely and honestly as an expression of Bailey’s love and apology. We all speak as we were educated, be that by our parents, our schools or our religions, and we all use our learned vocabularies to express our innermost thoughts. Though you use the same phrases as your parents, you surely mean them in your own way. For Bailey, though she chooses words that my queer community is poised to interpret as slanderous and inflammatory, she speaks as she can, with the education she has, and uses those words to convey her support and levy her defense. 

Everything I’ve written comes down to one thing: I know Bailey personally and many people commenting on her actions do not. Would I behave differently if I didn’t know her? Possibly. But after working with Bailey I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and help her self-educate because I believe her to be a good person. I understand the online reaction, and I’m happy that we’re all discussing the issues. Life in the digital is exponentially emotional, we lose control of our words the instant we hit publish or send.







  1. TonopahAugust 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm Edit #

    I applaud your dedication to carrying on a dialogue about the situation. It is so easy to point fingers and get all riled up, often the meanings of everyone’s words are lost. The only way we grow as a community is to have conversations, to listen, to actively attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. People don’t hold bigoted beliefs because they are evil, but because they believe they have found what is good and just. (and while I passionately stand for human rights for all people everywhere regardless of sex, sexual orientation, culture, or skin color it doesn’t mean that I have the lock down on the good and just or have never done something which retrospectively has made me feel ashamed). At the heart of all human rights movements is the need for dialogue, it is hard to maintain, and difficult not to become hateful or angry (especially with the ambiguity of the internet) when someone does not see things the way you do. But in the words of Montaigne, “only a fool is certain and immovable” and it is the job of rights advocates everywhere to help them find the space to move.


    • Dan KohlerAugust 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm Edit #

      Tango, you say it so well. It is our responsibility as rights advocates to help people find space to expand their knowledge and see a new perspective. Thanks for your thoughts!


  2. Jamie McGonnigalAugust 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm Edit #

    Wow. That was beautifully put and I agree with everything you’ve stated here.

    You are clearly a bigger person than most if you can so easily dismiss the actions and opinions of others the moment you step in the workplace. Especially in a field where you do well by baring your soul. It’s simply not the same as walking into an office, sitting in your cubicle all day and potentially never even speaking to those you work next to. As you know, working in theatre means you are (sometimes quite literally) exposed and at your most vulnerable in that space. Most I would venture to say, require more than a little professional trust there. So the question I raised in the title of my first piece “What happens when a Broadway star supports Chick-fil-A?,” was intended perhaps for a smaller audience of my theatrical comrades.I think it’s an excellent conversation to be had in this digital age and perhaps that’s where current theatrical professionals can take it.

    I hate that people have been so vile towards her – and mind you, I’ve received more than a few hate messages myself over it. This is not where I had hoped the conversation would go and in many instances – most instances, the dialogue has been constructive. I have also noticed that for some reason – and being a food person, maybe you’ll have an opinion on this – the Chick-fil-A thing has engaged people in a way few topics have in recent memory. I’m not sure if it was just a tipping point or that people actually feel that strongly about chicken sandwiches. Either way, as a new media professional, I find it fascinating.

    Thanks very much for your words and your inside opinion on Bailey. I think you’re probably quite accurate regarding where she is coming from. And I appreciate your desire to want to educate her. I do find at times that it is extraordinarily challenging to change someone’s mind about a thing when they have a lifetime of misinformation (disguised as “loving truth”) drummed into their ears. It can sometimes be a bit like teaching a pig to play harmonica – all it does is waste your time and annoy the pig.

    And thank you for the considerate, intelligent dialogue. It seems to be frustratingly absent from most regarding equality, religion and/or Chick-fil-A.


    • Dan KohlerAugust 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm Edit #

      Thanks Jamie, I appreciate your comments. It’s definitely interesting to see how our posts take on new lives after we hit “send,” isn’t it? I don’t doubt that you’ve received some of the same foul-mouthed commentary that Bailey caught. It always boggles me that in the face of assumed bigotry people respond with egregious hatred. What does that solve? I understand the impetus, specifically being a member of a minority, but we’ve got to step back from our own initial reactions sometimes to see a clearer path forward.

      The Chik-fil-A event rode a massively popular wave on social media, you’re absolutely correct. Though it may be a marker of a tipping point in our collective consciousness, I’m willing to say that it is also an outcome of our need for pop-news. The KONY 2012 piece, the endless political posturing, the Chik-fil-A statement, it seems our interests in advocacy-based news is growing, though our attention span is shortening. I wonder how long any of these issues will capture our brain time in the future.

      Thanks for continuing this dialogue, it’s been eye-opening for me and I respect the honesty with which you write.



Bailey Hanks is more than a chicken sandwich


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.

Much love,


*Update: 8/11/12*
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.







  1. Jamie McGonnigalAugust 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm Edit #

    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.”


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm Edit #

      Hi Jamie-

      Thanks for responding, it’s great to keep the dialogue open.

      I posted a response to your comment here, but realized it was too long and moved it over to its own post for easier reading. Check it out here:


  2. JayAugust 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm Edit #

    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.


    • Dan KohlerAugust 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm Edit #

      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.