You don’t have to be an overemotional teenager to admit that we live in an unfair world. Whether it’s the economy, war or the continued existence of Nicolas Cage, there’s plenty to be angry about. This past week, I’ve been angry at sandwiches.
Specifically, I’ve been upset at the Subway chain, due to an incident earlier this month that completely boggled my mind. Kurt Wild, 22, was working behind a Subway counter in St. Louis when a customer recognized him. Though he leads a quiet home life, Wild once enjoyed an illustrious career in the finest Internet cinema, starring in such titles as “Young, Dumb and Hung” and “Hot House Backroom Exclusive Videos #5.”
I would have assumed that this customer was a fan, since you’ve got to watch a lot of gay porn to pick out one of those sweaty young bucks in a cute black Subway apron. But I digress. Instead, the customer mysteriously became upset at Wild, and at Subway for hiring him. He informed Wild’s manager that he would be boycotting the store if it didn’t fire Wild. Amazingly, this single customer complaint resulted in Wild getting sacked. And because Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws don’t cover sexual orientation, there’s not a whole lot he can do about it.
I was pretty sure there would be outrage somewhere about this kind of thing, but while the story has been widely reported in the gay media, it has been all but ignored in the mainstream press. Now that pissed me off. Gay rights are one of the few current issues I feel really strong about, to the point that I foam at the mouth and annoy all of my friends. But especially considering this case, can you blame me?
As long as he stays in Missouri, Wild can be fired anytime for the rest of his life because of something perfectly legal he did to make ends meet. Because he did gay porn, Kurt wrote in an e-mail to BGay.com, “I feel a bit lynched for the rest of my life.”
I’m willing to bet that this had more to do with Wild’s assumed sexual orientation (surprise! He’s married to a woman and has kids) than the fact he starred in a pornographic movie. As Wild put it, “if a guy does straight porn, he is bragged about … if a girl did (porn) it would probably be OK.”
Wild has a point. Because the big media outlets are ignoring this story, I decided I would have to take action somehow. This is a big deal, since “taking action” for me usually consists of frowning in a concerned fashion at a newspaper article and sometimes making an angry post on the Internet. I’m really not much of a leader, and I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it.
So first off, I complained to Subway (which I encourage you to do at Subway’s website or call (800) 888-4848 — mention the St. Louis location). Next, I told everyone I met.
And lastly, I decided to stop buying delicious Subway sandwiches. This is where I faltered. I love Subway; it’s cheap, healthy and usually part of my daily routine. I began to reason with myself that one college kid not buying a sandwich really wouldn’t make a difference. Further, Subway’s side of the story hadn’t really came out. For all I knew, Wild could have been holding raves in the cooler before his sexuality had ever come up.
But when I looked into Subway, I found that it has been in trouble with human rights groups before. One Subway store discriminated against a man who wore a turbana. Another store was sued by an HIV-awareness group for discrimination against HIV-infected persons. Maybe these types of discrimination cases are typical among large businesses, but these only made me feel worse about Subway.
My stomach and my conscience aching, I realized this was a classic example of cognitive dissonance. I was desperately trying to reconcile logic with my emotions, in this case extremely tasty salami and pepperoni sandwiches. Besides, boycotts aren’t supposed to be easy. When you’re “boycotting” something you never cared about anyway — say, Tom Cruise movies — it doesn’t make an impact at all. Sacrifice from regular customers is necessary if you actually want to hurt businesses.
So now my days contain a little less sandwichy goodness, and my pockets are a little lighter now that I buy more expensive food. But I urge you all to join me. Don’t be like I was. Sandwiches shouldn’t tempt you into turning a blind eye to a violation of someone’s rights. But, oh, I am weak.
Eileen Stahl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.