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.
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.