Originally published on Sumner Newscow on June 4, 2021
And happy Pride Month! After a year off (because of you know…) Pride is back and it promises to be one of the best ones yet.
I recognize while many of my readers identify as LGBTQ+, the majority of you are cishet people and that’s great. (I love all my readers). So, with that in mind, I’d like to offer one quick hack to be a good ally this Pride Month:
Stop eating at Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A: Downhome American homophobia
It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A has been in hot water with LGBTQ+ people, advocates, and allies for some time now, but even I will admit that’s not what they set out to do. In the beginning, S. Truett Cathy, the founder, just wanted to create a fast-food joint that vibed with his religious beliefs.
What that largely meant at first was Chick-fil-A would be closed on Sundays so employees could attend a (Christian) church service if they wanted to, a practice that exists to this day. The problem didn’t even start when the company started donating to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
For its part the Salvation Army released a statement in 2019 supporting LGBTQ+ people, but skeptics aren’t convinced.
It wasn’t just their charitable giving, however.
Truett Cathy was 92 at the time he retired as CEO. A 92-year-old with archaic beliefs isn’t anything to write a story about. His successor (and son) Dan, on the other hand, was more outspoken than his father on the family’s beliefs about queer people.
He came out of the gate with homophobic quips that I won’t reprint here. Feel free to look them up, they are as numerous as they are horrific. With someone like that at the helm, it seems the company wasn’t about to shake its “troubled” past.
In November of 2019, Chick-fil-A (finally) released a bare-minimum statement that they would “refocus” their giving strategies and stop paying the Salvation Army and FCA. Dan Cathy immediately undercut that message, however, by pointing out “no organization will be excluded from future consideration–faith-based or non-faith-based.” That’s perfectly fine on its own, but not as a response to the question “will you stop giving money to anti-LGBT organizations.”
Cathy did give somewhat of an apology (without the words “sorry” or “I was wrong”) years later.
The same ole’ song and dance
Advocates and lovers of dry chicken sandwiches rejoiced that their favorite restaurant would stop actively hating people after that statement, but that joy didn’t last. That’s because they realized we already did this before.
In 2012, almost the exact same thing happened after Dan Cathy’s first round of homophobic rantings. The company promised to stop its donations to anti-gay charities and we all moved on with our lives.
Then, in 2019, when their 2017 990 form (think of it as a non-profit’s tax returns) revealed that they actually increased their support of the exact charities they explicitly mentioned, the whole debacle restarted.
But it won’t take seven years this time to see if the company kept its promise because we already know they blew it. Dan Cathy just got caught donating millions of dollars to prop up anti-trans legislation and stop the Equality Act from passing in Congress.
It isn’t surprising when the company culture is built around “biblical values” that the problems don’t magically stop with nice words. But while we’re on the subject of biblical values…
You can be Christian and not be anti-LGBTQ+
First and foremost, I am not criticizing religion by calling out what some of its followers are doing. People of faith are just as welcome to their beliefs as any other person in this world and I don’t mean to cause anyone offense by what I’m saying.
Christianity (in the United States) is simply the last blockade homophobes and transphobes have managed to hide behind in their assault on queer people in this country. It by no means all Christians are homophobic because that is a ludicrous thing to say. In 2014, Pew Research found that 62% of religious people in America believed homosexuality should be accepted and that number has only gone up since then.
The problem is that anti-LGBTQ+ organizations like Chick-fil-A falsely use their faith to hide their bigotry. Here’s what the bible actually says about queer people:
God did not make a mistake in creating LGBTQ people.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:113-14) Sexual identity and gender identity are components of a person’s personality, and as such are part of who God made each of us to be.
David and Jonathan (a biblically gay couple).
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1) David says of Jonathan: “Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26).
Joseph, Jacob’s son was gender nonconforming.
He was given an “ornate robe” by his father (Genesis 37:3); the Hebrew word used here for the robe (ketonet passim) is used elsewhere to mean “the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore” (2 Samuel 13:18).
These and many more came from the St. Hugh of Lincoln Episcopalian Church and I invite you to read all of them.
The Bible doesn’t tell people to hate LGBTQ+ people and warns against eating shellfish more than it describes the marriage between one man and one woman. You don’t have to betray your faith to accept and love those around you.
Many queer people in this country are actually very religious and if you find yourself isolated because you’re queer and Christian, check out what the Trevor Project has to say about the situation.
But my $6 purchase at Chick-fil-A isn’t going to change a thing
You’re probably right.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should take part anyway. Incremental change is better than nothing and if the entire 62 percent of the religious community that says they stand by queer people stops going to their restaurants, Chick-fil-A will have to change.
That doesn’t mean Dan Cathy, will every truly become an advocate and I don’t really care if he does. But at least your money won’t be directly going to the organizations making peoples’ lives so much harder. Chick-fil-A has already lost business in the UK, San Antonio’s Airport, and with a growing proportion of its former patrons due to their beliefs and that isn’t sustainable as a company.
So, will you personally make a huge difference? No. But, will you, along with everyone else, make a huge difference? Absolutely.
Now to the meat of the issue
I’ve discussed Chick-fil-A’s homophobic history and how their corporate structure refuses to change. But there’s an even bigger problem with eating there: they sell one thing, and it isn’t even that good.
The chicken is dry and its blandness is only masked by two pickles and their (admittedly decent) sauce.
I ate their B- happy meal for years back in college because there was one on my campus, but when I stopped eating there, it wasn’t for any moral concern. I was just bored of the same dry-yet-somehow-soggy slop they forced on me. The most popular refrain I hear from people is that “it’s just too good to give up” and I’m genuinely confused by it.
Have you never felt a crunch in your life? Do you know about the gift of salt? Are you aware that there are myriad better chicken sandwiches out there devoid of harmful messaging?
The Popeyes sandwich: actually has a bit of crunch to it without any added homophobia.
The humble McChicken: a cheap thrill with nary a transphobic donation in sight.
The monstrosity they sell at Wendy’s: an affront to god with a calorie count that would kill a Victorian child yet has no aftertaste of hate.
(Maybe even just go vegetarian)
So, while I still can’t seem to convince everyone that Pride month is a time to educate themselves about queer issues and donate what they can to LGTBQ+ charities, I hope I can at least convince you of this: Being a good ally isn’t hard. It’s as easy as driving a little further down the road for dinner.