“No Room for You”: Is It Time to Move Past Discrimination and “Isms” All Its Forms?

No Room for You?
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“We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out.”


– Franklin D. Roosevelt
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Thank goodness Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed that awful (and probably unconstitutional) Senate bill 1062, the bill designed to institutionalize discrimination against gays (but cloaked under “religious freedom”).
I’m not going to debate this issue – just to say that opening the door to discrimination based on someone’s “ism” is dangerous and scary to comprehend, greasing the already slippery slope to fascism.
But I want to look at another side of discrimination and show how it can affect our lives as well.
This failed anti-gay bill has reminded me of an incident that happened to me and my husband in the early 1990’s. We were planning an overnight trip to New York City and were looking for an inexpensive hotel – or, at least, a cheaper hotel.
An acquaintance suggested trying the Christopher Street Hotel (also known as The Hotel Christopher) – as far as I can tell, now closed.
I had no idea (nor would I have cared) that this was a hotel that catered to the Gay and Lesbian community. The price sounded good to me, so I called to make a reservation.
So far, so good, but once I revealed that this reservation was for me and my husband, well, the clerk got all stuttery and evasive. He finally spit out, “You know that we are a gay establishment.”
I was a bit surprised, but not deterred. “No, I did not,” I said. “But it really doesn’t matter.”
Silence.
“Hello?” I said.
“Uh, you might feel more comfortable somewhere else.”
You see where this is headed?
“We wouldn’t feel uncomfortable,” I insisted.
When booking a hotel, I don’t even think about the habits – sexual or otherwise – of the other guests, unless they plan to throw a loud party next door to my room. I care more about basic amenities, such as a clean room, soap, clean sheets and towels. And, yes, price.
The clerk hemmed and hawed, clearly not wanting to make a reservation for us.
It suddenly occurred to me that we weren’t wanted because of our straight sexual orientation. No other reason. That clerk wasn’t worried about making us uncomfortable but making him and the hotel guests uncomfortable.
On one level, I understood. Back then, being Gay or Lesbian was difficult enough without straight interlopers infiltrating their world. We were potential spies, maybe even troublemakers, or secret police looking for a reason to bust the Christopher Street Hotel (we were none of those labels, but how would that clerk know?).
On another level, I felt discriminated against, almost ashamed of being straight.
Icky and rejected, probably how minority groups feel when it’s obvious that their presence isn’t appreciated or wanted.
I decided that staying there would have made my husband and me uncomfortable, not because of the sexual orientation of the other guests, but the likely attitude that would have been shown toward us. Yes, perhaps we had the legal right to assert our wish for a reservation, but staying there would not have been a good experience.
I got the sense that we would have been treated coldly and dismissed as being where we didn’t belong.
Not knowing our place.
It’s too bad, because we would have been good guests, and we might have seen a side of a community that we have never experienced – although we did not plan on hanging around the hotel all day.
Sometimes, it’s just best to roll up the rug and move on, so I caved and said, “Okay, we’ll find another hotel.”
Being White and straight, accomplishing this wasn’t too difficult; we didn’t have to worry about trying to keep our sexual orientation secret or explaining the mechanics of our relationship. We just had to come up with the money to pay for a room.
I harbor no ill feeling toward the Christopher Street Hotel; when a group is continually discounted and discriminated against, it is a natural tendency to band together in its own enclave.
Life goes on, and I moved on.
Thankfully, the landscape is changing, and, perhaps, eventually, establishments that cater to discriminated groups will no longer have to “exclude” anyone not like them.
One more thing to consider: although it is still illegal in Arizona for a business to discriminate against Gays and Lesbians, would you really want an angry, bigoted, homophobic baker to make your wedding cake?
I could make a list of ways one could sabotage a cake, but I’ll leave that to your imagination...
I doubt very much if the Christopher Street Hotel would have sabotaged our visit in ways that angry bigots might have, but there would have been a slightly unfriendly ambiance.
Sometimes, it’s just better to avoid unnecessary confrontations and move on in life.
Thoughts, anyone?




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