Waymon Hudson

The Airport Couple: Homophobia Over the Loud-Speaker

Filed By Waymon Hudson | November 13, 2007 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: airport, Fight OUT Loud

I was asked by a few people to relate the story of what happened to my partner and me this summer at the airport here in Fort Lauderdale. It was an eye-opening experience for both of us that helped push us to get more involved and become much more vocal in our fight for LGBT rights. It has also earned us the title of “The Airport Couple.”

Early on the morning of May 1, 2007, around 1 am, my partner and I were returning home to Fort Lauderdale from vacation in Chicago. Our flight was delayed, so we were the last group of passengers (around 20 or so) at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. While waiting for our luggage in the baggage claim area, we heard these words come over the PA system loud and clear, “A man that lies with a man as with a woman should be put to death.” A few minutes later, the same recording played over the loud speaker again. We were understandably shocked and frightened.

We looked around for a security guard, airport employee, or TSA agent, but we were unable to find anyone because it was so late and everything was closed. We quickly gathered our bags and went to our car, nervous to be alone in a dark parking garage after hearing what we assumed was a death threat against us.

The next morning, we called the airport to report the incident. The airport manager seemed disinterested in the threat and simply said "sorry for the inconvenience." After the tepid response from the manager, we contacted our county commissioner, as well as a local news station. We also contacted various web sites and blogs about our experience, including Pam’s House Blend and Towleroad (who were amazing in their support!) to try and get some help.

The next day, we received phone calls from airport officials telling us that they were doing an investigation, a very different reaction now that the media had picked up the story. Soon, every local media outlet and newspaper carried the story. The online world also started buzzing, and our experience was soon being picked up both nationally and internationally.

A few nights later, we received a call from the police saying that they were able to locate the person who made the announcement and that he confessed. The man was Jethro Monestine, a skycap for Superior Aircraft Services, who worked in the baggage claim area. After seeing the intense media coverage, a co-worker turned him in, fearing they too would be in trouble. Monestine said that he downloaded the recording onto his cell phone and played it over the intercom as a “prank”. He also claimed not be directing it at us, saying he was “bored between flights and just wanted to have some fun”. He was eventually fired, but no charges were filed against him for what can only be seen as making a death threat over the PA at a major US airport.

The intense media coverage, as well as the religious aspect of the recording, led to a large amount of negative feedback and hate-mail being directed towards us. Adding to this backlash was some skewed and sensationalistic reporting of our story, which included headlines that focused on the “bible verse” aspect of this incident, not the threat (one such example: “Prankster fired for playing bible verse that offended gays”). This opened us up for attack from a number of conservative groups, blogs, and radio shows. Websites and open forums began to fill with personal attacks directed at us. Every anti-gay slur, threat of damnation and condemnation of us that you could imagine appeared. Our motives, names, and even our appearance were viciously attacked.

The media coverage made us public enemy #1 for the extreme religious movement. A few days after they identified Monestine, a woman stopped me in our neighborhood grocery store and said, “Didn’t I see you on the news?” I said yes, and she looked me in the eye and replied, “You faggots deserve exactly what that man said.” The next day, my car windshield had “FAG!” scrawled across it. I was so concerned that I ended up driving around our neighborhood so no one could follow me home. My partner received hate mail at his work. We even had dubious–looking people lurking around our house and looking in our windows. It reached the point where a woman again came up to me in the grocery store, but this time she spit in my face and called me “sinful faggot.” The backlash reached a level where it became dangerous and made us fear for our safety. We ended up having the police pass by our home every few hours for days because the threats grew so violent.

This whole event really woke us up to the amount of hate that people are still capable of directing towards the GLBT community. We received numerous stories from people around the country telling us their own horror stories of discrimination and not being taken seriously. As with our own story, a lot of smaller incidents of discrimination and hate seemed to fall through the cracks, leaving many people to fend for themselves. Having gone through such an eye-opening experience, and finding that there were really very few resources available to LGBT individuals who needed immediate help in situations like ours, we decided to fight back. This inspired us to form a national non-profit organization called Fight OUT Loud (www.fightOUTloud.org).

The mission of Fight OUT Loud is to provide immediate resources, support, education, and assistance for GLBT individuals who are faced with discrimination and hate. We work to get satisfactory resolutions by guiding individuals through the maze of obstacles that can come from speaking out publicly on GLBT issues. Fight OUT Loud also assists the GLBT community and its allies by mobilizing them against discrimination and hate crimes through its Action Alert Team. It is a resource for the entire community that seeks to raise awareness and educate the public about the still present discrimination and hatred focused on the GLBT community. We also provide training to the GLBT community and its allies on how to become leaders and advocates in their own communities.

While the experience of the airport and the ensuing backlash may have been difficult, it was probably one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. It changed my life, got me involved, and started an amazing organization that is helping people across the country. For that, I will gladly be known as part of the Airport Couple until the day I die.

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Totally sad incident. I am sorry you had to go through that ordeal.

It was a rough experience, but it has pushed me to really try and make a difference.

It shocked me how much hate was out there, even in a relatively "gay-friendly" place like Fort Lauderdale. It just goes to show how much further we have to go...

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 13, 2007 2:12 PM

Waymon, that is an incredible story! I am shocked that you were put through such an ordeal. Honestly, I cannot imagine a similar situation happening in Ireland, partially because I think people are generally more enlightened and informed here but mosly because there is zero tolerance legally for such open expressions of hate and the making of threats.

Did you consider charging the woman who spit at you for assault and a hate crime? I would.

Bravo for your courage and for creating the non-profit!

Sometimes you just reach that breaking point, where you have to stand up and fight back. This summer was mine, I guess.

The level of hatred directed at us (and honestly, we still get hate mail and phone threats even now, months after) was incredible. The religious aspect definitely played into it.

As for the woman who spit at me, that is the one part I would go back and do differently. I was so shocked (and already living in a weird state of fear from all of the other incidents and hate mail we were getting) that I just kind of stood there. I was lucky that a group of firefighters were in the same aisle and chased her out of the store (they later told me that they had the manager kick her out). They also took me in the back of the store and helped me clean up and pull myself together. They even followed me home to make sure I made it safely and no one followed me. I honestly wish I would have called the police and pressed charges for assault against her, but it all happened so fast and was so surreal. It’s the one thing I would change, but I guess you can’t do everything right. :)

Fight OUT Loud really just seemed like a great way to help others that go through everyday, individual incidents of discrimination like we did. We have already helped over 45 people around the country in just 4 months, so the response has been amazing!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 13, 2007 3:59 PM

It’s the one thing I would change, but I guess you can’t do everything right. :)

Please don't beat yourself up! I wasn't really envisioning the encounter very well, and making you feel bad is the last thing I wanted!! You are to be commended for your actions all along the way and it sounds like your organization is not only much needed but also kicking ass. ;-)

Nobody should have to go through what you and your boyfriend have. Both of you rock.

Thanks, Brynn! No worries about me beating myself up. It was just one of those moments where I couldn't believe what was happening. You don't really expect someone to come up and spit on you while you're grocery shopping. :) Trust me, I'm much more ready to kick ass now than I was when all the things were happening this summer.

I agree no one should go through what we went through, but people do everyday. That's part of Fight OUT Loud's mission: to educate the public about the still-present hatred focused on LGBT people.

Waymon, thanks for doing something proactive like starting an organization to help others who experience hate crimes. This is an awesome response to a horrible situation.

Un fucking believable that this shit still goes on in america. how lucky i feel to be living in san francisco.

It is unbelievable that this still happens to people everyday. It doesn't matter where you live, how "gay-friendly" (even San Fran, South Florida, or New York) a place is, there is still a strong current of GLBT hatred under the surface in America.

All it takes is one small incident to set people off and make them lash out at us due to their own irrational hatred. It really is just boiling under the surface. That's why I think no incident of discrimination or hate should go unchallenged. Our community needs to draw a line in the sand and say "no more". I hope that the work we are doing can empower people and give them the tools and resources they need to fight back.

Wow, Waymon, I remember hearing about this story when it originally happened (if I remember correctly, I think either you or your partner told the story on the Michelangelo Signorile Show a while back), but I didn't connect it with you until now. I know that had to be scary for both of you, but you're turning a total negative into a major positive, and that's the best part of this.

I encourage you to keep telling this story to whoever will listen. I'm willing to bet you can do a lot of positive education with it and your organization, and just by continuing to live out and proud.

I guess I should of been more concise and said I have been fortunate enough to have lived so long in San Francisco that the humiliation and bigotry that you and your partner have had to suffer from in Florida is not is not an acceptable behavioral practice here.

Thanks for the support, Rebecca! The best way to handle a bad situation, at least for me, was to use it as a catalyst for education and help others.

And no worries, Jerry! I was simply making the point that even in our gayborhoods, there are still problems. I didn't think you were pulling a Fox News and telling all the gays to move to San Francisco. :) I was just using your comment as a further jumping off point for discussion.