I was in the process of writing about how I have been protesting Chik-Fil-a for the past few years. My family started protesting back when it was first released that the CEO of Chik-Fil-a had donated over $5 million dollars to organizations like Family Research Council and Exodus International. As an LGBTQIA activist, I was aware of how the Uganda Kill the Gays bill was playing out. I was also aware of Conservative Christian organizations here in the United States, who were linked to support for the Kill the Gays bill. I felt like I was in a dystopian universe. Could we really become so oppressive as to want to deem one group worthy of death – one I was a part of as someone transgender and queer?
Then, I was invited to a protest for Marriage Equality in Ohio. As the CEO of Chik-Fil-a has verbally declared himself against same-sex marriage, the information on Chik-Fil-a donating to hate organizations has come to light for many LGBT people and their straight allies. Chik-Fil-a has tried to make it all about an issue of freedom of speech, but for many of us, it is an issue of respect for humanity. I understand some businesses are run by people with differing opinions, but many of these businesses are not talking about how they are spending their money to fight against equality and even life for other human beings.
If the hate is geared towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people, I will protest. If it is against heterosexuals, BIPOC, other racial minorities, Christians, Atheists, women, men, or even animals I am going to be against it. I believe every human being, every creature, deserves love and respect. We are all human and I believe I am a good, caring person. I seek to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe those who need it, and give each and every person the love and respect they deserve regardless of what they believe.
I decided to go to the protest in my area, but I wanted to take Robert with me. He is a teenager and he has begun to make his political beliefs known. He is a caring, compassionate young man and he didn’t understand how people could keep going to Chik-Fil-a if they knew their money was going to a CEO who sent that very money to fund organizations that seek to kill, deport, arrest, or “fix” LGBTQIA people. He doesn’t believe I need to be fixed. He likes me as I am. Even if I drive him bonkers making him do his homework and get a good education, he knows I love him, care about him, and I am a good father.
We arrived a little late. It was hot out and we live four blocks from Chik-Fil-a, so we decided to walk. When we got there, about 20 or so people were there. They let Robert make a sign and he and I spoke to the organizer, Eliza, for quite a long time. We were talking to the manager of the Chik-Fil-a who came out to show her support to us. I told her I understood she had a job and it was hard to find work in this economy. I told her I had no problem with her. She and other employees brought water, diet coke, and even cookies for the protesters. She apologized for Chik-Fil-a and was upset to hear why we really were protesting. She also kept the police, who also showed up, close. The Washington Twp. police were actually supportive and kept checking on us to see if we are okay, but police, in general, make me nervous.
The majority of the protest was peaceful. I was SO PROUD to be a part of such a loving and compassionate LGBTQIA community. Everyone was so kind. We wanted to educate on why we were protesting. We did not harass anyone. We got several people to honk and only a few shouted mean things. Robert made friends and was proud to be fighting for the rights of the LGBTQIA community. His sign said:
“When you go to Chik-Fil-a your money supports killing gays. Over $5 million from Chik-Fil-a goes to support the Family Research Council. Can you support killing others?”
About 30 minutes after we arrived, a man came up to Eliza, myself, her best friend, and Robert. He wanted information on what we were doing. Eliza spoke up and explained why we were there. After saying LGBTQIA and naming each term, he asked what transgender was. Being trans, I felt I had the most knowledge to explain what being trans was. I politely answered any and all questions – about being born afab, about brains developing in utero, about being attraction. He even asked me if I had male genitals sewed on (ugh!). I explained to him, briefly, about SRS. I also informed him, in Ohio, I am legally recognized as male, but am not legally allowed to marry my girlfriend. Ohio is only one of two states to discriminate against trans people this way.
He then began to question Robert. I let Robert answer that yes I was his dad and I “adopted” him, and that yes, my girlfriend was his biological mom. However, Robert is still very sensitive, so when the man started talking about pedophilia and asking if I was attracted to teenage girls, I sent Robert off to the sidewalk, to go hold up his sign with the others protesting (we were in a nearby parking lot). I asked the man if he was attracted to young girls. He said no. I said, “Sir, I am 30 years old. What would I have in common with a 14 year old? The majority of LGBTQIA people are attracted to other consenting adults.”
Eliza jumped in to explain the majority of pedophiles are straight and we debated about Christianity. He said it was obvious I knew a lot about the Bible, so why didn’t I have Christ in my heart? I explained I was a good, moral person and he asked about the charity work I have done. I explained all of the charity work I have done over the years and how I believe it is my duty to help other human beings. He said that was good, but then he informed me that because Robert was not biologically mine that I loved him less than a biological parent would.
I asked him if he believed adoptive parents loved their children less than biological parents and he said yes. He said he worried people like me would be a bad influence on his daughter. I told him my son was a beautiful, well-adjusted teenage boy. He also was very loving and compassionate towards all people. He was shocked Robert was not gay, but I told him Robert was still young and we didn’t know where his attractions lie. Either way we would accept him, no matter what. I told him I loved Robert, clothed him, fed him and gave him more than most biological parents I know give their kids. He still believed Robert had less with me as a parent because “I used to be a girl and now I’m Dad.”
As we were talking, a woman with two boys (around 11 and 13) showed up to bring us water. The gentleman asked if she supported gay marriage and she said she supported love. He proceeded to ask if her son (he pointed to the younger one) were gay if she’d still accept him. The woman proudly said he’d still be her son. He kept bugging her about her son being gay until the boy piped up, “LOOK! That is NEVER gonna happen!”
The guy said, “Oh, you’re straight?”
The boy just shook his head and said, “YES! I am!”
The mother and her sons moved away from the man, because he clearly was upsetting them. He turned back to me and proceeded to grill me more about the Bible and homosexuality. Finally, he told me he had to go. He ended our conversation with, “I would shake your hand, but I don’t want to catch a blood disease.”
I said, “Excuse me?”
He said, “I don’t want to catch a disease from you.”
I said, “I don’t have an STD or AIDS.”
Not that this should matter. You can’t catch an STD or AIDS from shaking someone’s hand.
His response? “Well, yes but I don’t know that for sure.”
I was in disbelief. I had been kind to this man answering every question calmly and politely. I looked at him and responded, “You know that trans masculine folks have one of the lowest rates of STDs and AIDS, right? Even lower than biologically born heterosexual men, like you.”
He looked doubtful and Eliza gave him AIDS statistics, but he didn’t believe her, either. I told him, “Jesus would have shook my hand.”
He said, “Jesus would have killed you. You are so far from being saved. You can feed the hungry, but in 100 years you will be dust and I will be in the kingdom of Heaven with God.”
I stopped talking and Eliza said, “Dominick, no need to say anymore. Some people cannot change what they think or believe about others.”
I then received multiple hugs, since none of them believed they could catch anything from me. Even if I was HIV+, which I’m not, you cannot catch an STD from a handshake or a hug. Others debated the guy in my defense. I just was glad Robert was not there to hear the ugliness. It would have broke his heart.
The Chik-Fil-a management came out to see if I was okay because they heard someone harassed me. They were in disbelief at his insensitivity. This is WHY we protest. This is why we must stand up for love and equality. It is this kind of hate that we fight. This is the ignorance we try to educate and this is why we cannot let the hate continue. Today, I saw true hatred and ugliness hidden behind the guise of religion and it made me scared. What kind of future are we giving our children? I want Robert to grow up in a world of love, peace and respect. I know he already has those virtues, but how do I keep the ugliness from making him feel like the beauty of the world is just an illusion?
I am a proud trans person. I love a beautiful cisgender woman and have a wonderful cisgender son. These are all just labels society thrusts upon us. The true message is the love we share with one another. We can only answer for ourselves and we will never support hate…not at Chik-Fil-a or anywhere. The world needs love and we will spread love and kindness wherever we go. That, to me, is not just the true “American” way. It’s the right way to live as a human being, here on planet Earth.
Check out our protest here: