A passenger flying into Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson airport was dismayed to discover the word “sodomite” scrawled in black pen on her rainbow luggage tag.
Renee Gerrish tweeted a photo of the leather tag, from luxury retailer Henri Bendel, which went out of business in January.
“Someone at Delta Air Lines baggage handling took it upon themselves to write ‘sodomite” on my [rainbow] luggage tag,” Gerrish tweeted, calling it “bigotry, hate speech and destruction of personal property.”
“I want this shared,” added Gerrish, who identifies as heterosexual. “and on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, I will not go quietly.”
“I’m deeply hurt and offended that someone felt the entitlement to ruin and tamper with personal property with hate speech,” Gerrish told LGBTQ Nation. “I wear LGBTQ+ support clothing and accessories regularly. As a girl, I love rainbows, but as a symbol of love and support for the community that means everything to me. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m gay because of choices in rainbow accessories.”
When one commenter claimed the incident was a hoax, Gerish replied, “Thanks so much for calling BS on the situation that really happened. I’m a straight woman why would I take the time to write a gay slur on my personal property?”
A representative from the TSA replied to Gerrish’s tweet, stating the agency would look into the incident. “The majority of checked bags are screened w/o physical inspection by automated bag screening systems. If we must open a bag for add’l screening, we’re required to leave a notice of inspection.”
According to a followup tweet by Gerrish, Delta has reached out to her and she will be talking with them further on Monday.
She says she’d like the airline to issue apology to the LGBTQ community “and perhaps my tag replaced.” But her biggest concern is consequences for the person who wrote the slur: “As a hetero woman, I can only know my hurt, anger, and disappointment… PALE in comparison to what the LGBTQ+ community experiences on a daily basis,” Gerrish wrote in a message to Delta customer support.
A Delta representative told LGBTQ Nation it “does not condone discrimination of a person or group for any reason.”
“As a global carrier with a diverse workforce, serving a diverse customer base, we are committed to treating all passengers equally,” the rep added.
While not common, luggage has been vandalized by homophobes before: In October 2013, a New Zealand traveler was stunned to discover his suitcase on the luggage carousel had been plastered with stickers spelling out “I am gay.”
The bag was first out on the carousel and the words were large enough for others to see.
The man, known only as Aaron, tweeted a picture of the suitcase and identified he had flown with Jetstar, a regional airline in Australia and New Zealand.
“Utterly disgusted to find my luggage front and center on the @JetstarAirways luggage carousel looking like this,” he wrote in the accompanying tweet. “‘I am gay’ was not emblazoned across my luggage as a celebration. It was used as a pejorative. It was used to humiliate. It was used as a slur.”
“I am a white heterosexual male. This trifecta of privilege means that I’m not routinely subjected to prejudice,” he wrote on his blog. But for a few minutes I got to walk in the shoes of a gay person in a public place. For no good reason I had had a slur marked over my luggage. I was degraded. I was shamed. I was humiliated.”
Jetstar apologized for the incident and asked for more details: “I’m very sorry to see that,” tweeted a spokesperson. “So [that] we can investigate this internally, please direct message us your booking reference.”
Aaron, a stay-at-home dad, said he was more interested in “broad consciousness raising” at the airline over getting anyone fired.
*see full story by NewsWeek