Update on November 29, 2018: Last week Rider University, located in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, decided not to include Chick-fil-A as a candidate for a new restaurant on its campus “based on the company’s record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ community.” In response, Chick-fil-A told Huff Post, “This news story represents a good opportunity to clarify misperceptions about our brand... Our restaurants and licensed locations on college campuses welcome everyone. We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda. More than 120,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand.” Despite their claims, the company admitted as recently as June 2018 to bankrolling anti-LGBTQ organizations like Fellowship Of Christian Athletes, which prohibits “any ‘homosexual acts,’ even for married couples” and The Salvation Army, which has an extensive record of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.
My family didn’t have much money then so eating out was a rare treat. But when the trip included waffle fries ― an ingenious food so alien to southern Wisconsin in the early ’80s that they seemed like small, salty miracles to my tiny, still-soft mind ― it was almost too much for me to take.
Still, as delicious as the Georgia-based company’s fried foods were, they weren’t my only weakness as a kid. When I wasn’t fantasizing about grease, I was spending my young swishy days doing a really shitty job of hiding my insatiable hunger for other boys.
I was the kind of gay that doesn’t go unnoticed. It wasn’t until I escaped to college that I finally began to accept who and what I was. Once I did, I vowed to never let anyone make me feel like I was less than them simply because I lusted after and loved other men.
So you can imagine how upsetting it was for me when Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, proudly came out as a homophobe in 2012 by claiming, “We are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Even worse, the company put its money where Cathy’s vile mouth was by donating millions of dollars each year to anti-LGBTQ organizations via its Winshape nonprofit organization.
As disappointed as I was to learn the chain I had loved as a child was working to make my life and the lives of my fellow queers a living hell, I was heartened by the swift response from the queer community and its supporters. For several years, the only time you’d catch an LGBTQ person or an ally at Chick-fil-A was for a protest.
And then ... something changed.
For some strange reason I still don’t fully understand, some queer people and their friends and families began eating at Chick-fil-A again and are still eating there.
I’d venture a guess that Cathy’s somewhat conciliatory yet ridiculously inadequate non-apology and the company’s (totally bogus) promise to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ groups (while it may have ceased funding some groups, it’s certainly still bankrolling others) may have made some people feel justified in returning to the chain. People can be disturbingly indignant and defiant when faced with giving up their beloved chicken sandwiches.
“If you care about queer people ― or you yourself are queer ― you have absolutely no business eating at Chick-fil-A. Ever. It’s really that straightforward.”
When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was called out earlier this week for tweeting about eating at Chick-fil-A during Pride Month, I was shocked to see how many queer people and their allies not only didn’t care but went out of their way to defend the fast food chain.
Excuses I’ve heard for continuing to eat at Chick-fil-A range from a nonchalant dismissal of the issue (“In the grand scheme of things, eating there isn’t really that big of a deal and we have bigger problems to worry about”) to an all-or-nothing paradigm (“I can’t possibly avoid all of the problematic companies out there, so why should I worry about this one?”) to a simple admission that the siren song of the company’s kitchens has proven impossible to ignore (“I know I shouldn’t eat there but it’s just too good not to!”).
To all of these flimsy justifications, I say, “Bullshit.” If you care about queer people ― or you yourself are queer ― you have absolutely no business eating at Chick-fil-A. Ever. It’s really that straightforward.
If you’re arguing there are other (arguably bigger) fish (or, in this case, chicken) to fry, you may not be wrong. However, I think you’re underestimating my (and probably your) ability to be angry about ― and take action against ― more than one target at once. Just because Chick-fil-A may not be as “bad” (in your view) as the Trump administration (or countless other folks or corporations), that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge Chick-fil-A on its anti-queer stance while continuing to call out and work against other offensive and/or dangerous entities.
Any effort or energy you dedicate to not filling Chick-fil-A’s queerphobic coffers does not compromise your ability to simultaneously do the same with other opponents. Surely, like me, you have enough ― and are, sadly, constantly generating more ― outrage to spread around whenever and wherever it may be needed.
If you’re arguing that virtually every company doing business today is problematic in one way or another, you’re not wrong there either. (If you want to find other anti-queer culprits, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.) But when a corporation is wafting its anti-queer stance directly under your nose, as Chick-fil-A has and continues to do, not giving them more money to use against us is a no-brainer.
I’m not saying that in order to be a “good” person or ensure you don’t support despicable businesses, you have to hermetically seal yourself inside your home and only eat food you’ve hydroponically grown and only wear clothes you’ve woven on a loom built using recycled popsicle sticks and the stickier variety of bodily fluids you have handy. I’m saying that when you know a company is anti-queer ― and, what’s more, when a company like Chick-fil-A goes out of its way to tell you as much ― you shouldn’t support them no matter how delicious a reason you can order up.
“It sucks that we can’t have waffle fries. But you know what sucks even more? Not having equal rights and contributing to the profits of a company that wants to ensure you never do.”
Yeah, I know, I know ― it sucks that we can’t have waffle fries. But you know what sucks even more? Not having equal rights and contributing to the profits of a company that wants to ensure you never do because it believes you’re fundamentally disordered or unnatural or sinful or some delightful combination of all three.
Am I saying Chick-fil-A and everyone who works for it is evil? Of course not. The corporation has done a lot of good and even donated food to volunteers giving blood in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre (though, ironically, most gay men weren’t allowed to participate in that charitable effort). But none of its generosity changes the fact that the chain has taken and continues to take an anti-queer stance and still donates large sums of money to anti-queer groups.
Ultimately, if you’re going out of your way to find a reason to continue to patronize Chick-fil-A, you might want to examine why you need to expend so much energy to do so.
No one likes to hear that they’re doing something wrong ― or that they can’t have something that brings them immense pleasure ― but that’s still exactly what I’m telling you.
It’s time to choose where your loyalties lie ― with your community or with your stomach. I’m hoping you can find another restaurant to satiate your chicken sandwich cravings. If all else fails, there’s always this recipe to make a copycat version of the Chick-fil-A favorite at home. Sure, it won’t be exactly the same but it’s pretty damn close, and I promise it’ll go down a whole lot easier without all of that nasty queerphobia you’ve been ingesting.