By Ben Cartwright | Back Out With Benny
It’s really hard to write a column on Election Day, as the course of our nation will change drastically depending on its results. While this column will be published a few days after we know who our next president will be, at the time of this writing, I have no idea. So I’m not going to write anything about that. This isn’t typically a political column anyway.
I did, however, want to talk about how we treat each other in our community. Now, of course, I could write so many different columns about how this election season has exposed so much nastiness — especially on social media — but I’m not going to focus on that either. But let me start with a quick story.
Some may know that I work occasional shifts at the door at San Diego’s most popular gay nightclub, Rich’s, and I’m always in awe being on that side of the industry and seeing how hard our friends work who serve us as bartenders, servers, security folks, bar backs and other service industry-related positions. Over Halloween weekend, I worked Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights and saw and greeted thousands of people who passed through the club’s doors to celebrate the holiday. While I only work occasional shifts, I was reminded that so many in this industry give up all of their weekend nights, holidays and special occasions (like Pride) to make sure our community has the absolute best time.
They deal with some really great customers, but also sometimes deal with overly drunk, rude, aggressive and entitled people who seem to lose their sense of humanity — and all because they aren’t getting their way at a bar or nightclub. On the final evening of the very long Halloween celebration (that would be the actual night of Halloween, as gays love to stretch the holiday out for days!), I saw a co-worker at Rich’s being harassed and berated by a group of young customers. One of the customers was aggressively grabbing the employee’s arm and was asked to let go; they wouldn’t and then became angry that they had been asked to stop touching this person.
It turned into a giant argument and the customers only made themselves look like jerks. If someone asks to be let go of, they should immediately be let go of. No absolutely means no.
The customers then decided to berate and yell at this employee for being “rude” to them, and of course, were throwing around all sorts of names, and saying how much money they have supposedly have, and all kinds of other stupidity.
Once security moved this group along, I was walking to my car and overheard them continue to talk among themselves about what a “rude bitch” this employee was, and the male of the group (who I presume was gay) said “I should have punched that bitch in the face.”
After hearing that, I had had enough, and walked up to them and calmly said, “Did you really just say you were going to punch someone who was simply asking you to not to touch them? As a reminder, you own no one’s body but your own.”
He looked at me and said, “What the f*** did you just say?” Being non-confrontational, I simply repeated myself and said, “Violence is never the solution nor tolerated in Hillcrest so I would prefer you remove your attitudes from this neighborhood immediately.”
I then quickly jumped into my car, because knowing they had had some drinks, I didn’t want to instigate anything else or jeopardize my safety. But I was so frustrated to see how some people have the audacity to be so disrespectful to human beings who are working their butts off to make sure folks have a good time.
And this is just one incident that I recently witnessed.
We all know how much our service industry friends have to put up with everyday, so as we are in the month of thanks, I wanted to give a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who works in our LGBT community’s service industry in any capacity.
You all work so hard every single day to ensure that our last remaining safe spaces are comfortable, secure, enjoyable places for everyone to be themselves. As someone who occasionally joins you in your work, but more often patronizes your establishments, I can’t express my gratitude enough.
When you’re at a gay bar, restaurant, or other establishment this month, please remember to thank all of the employees who are there to make sure you have a good time. If you can, give them an extra tip this season, and just say THANK YOU. Those words go a long way.
And next time you get a little too drunk at an establishment (it’s ok! It happens to all of us!) and you’re asked to leave, just leave. Hop in an Uber and go home. There is no need to argue or cause a scene. The bar will be there the next day for you to come back.
Getting out with Benny
November has already been so busy, and before we know it all of the holiday events will begin too. A couple items of note:
The 41st annual Nicky Awards are this Sunday, Nov. 13! This event honors folks in the LGBT community’s service industry, businesses, activists, volunteers and more. Some call it the “Gay Academy Awards of San Diego.” This year’s event will take place at The Handlery Hotel, and features co-emcees Mia Pearl and me! Tickets and info at nickyawards.org.
An event I never miss each year is Transgender Day of Remembrance, taking place this year on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. at The Center. This event remembers the lives of transgender individuals who were lost to hate violence. Our transgender friends need our support more than ever so I encourage you to attend. Details at tinyurl.com/nwhm26l.
It will soon be Thanksgiving and then we’re in the full holiday season! We’ll talk more about all the fabulous holiday fundraisers and events next month!
—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Byline photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography.