Dining Out: Sometimes You Have to Wonder

I'll be frank: I love dining out. Sure, I love cooking (it would be a travesty if I didn't after attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America) but only for a decent-sized group so I can show off a bit. We go out a bit more often than most, but it's for work, right?

The ample number of times I have dined in restaurants has made me privy to a [somewhat] shocking fact: both outright and insidious homophobia still appear to be alive and well even though it is 2015 and marriage equality is the law of the land.

I could not possibly tell you the insane number of times I have experienced or seen discrimination which could only logically be attributed to homophobia. As part of my career, I have had to train and observe untolled scores of restaurant staff members and I have had to dine in an exceptional array of casual-to-fine dining establishments (such a horrid fate). I have been trained to observe and make note of service all around a restaurant simultaneously so, perhaps, I spot things a casual observer may not discern.

From upscale establishments and hole-in-the-wall joints in Manhattan or London to chains and casual restaurants in suburbia, it is still all too easy to experience blatant discrimination. I have been ignored at the host stand (especially problematic for the restaurants I've mystery shopped as part of a consultation), I've received horrible service from a server who is clearly competent because I see how they interact with other guests, and I have overheard snickering and comments from staff about myself or others in the restaurant.

We would love to think that now that we can get married that all is perfectly well. I am very sorry to say that it is not. We have an insanely long way to go. I am happy enough to be a white, cisgender, gay male; as such, I face much less prejudice than many members of the LGBTQIA+ community. That said, I experience it on almost a daily basis and I look like a somewhat affluent member of the white middle class. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if I were a person of color?

We must stop teaching that discrimination in any form, no matter how small, is acceptable. That starts by calling people out on it. Sure, it will not always be comfortable-far from it-but whenever it is safe to do so, let people know that their words or actions mean something. Do not be an idle passerby. Be an integral part of improving the world.