You've probably heard about the four firefighters who recently won a sexual-harassment lawsuit against the city in the amount of approximately $30K.
According to their complaints, the firemen, John Ghiotto, Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison, were ordered by their superiors to participate in the 2007 Gay Pride parade, during which they were subjected to all sorts of, you know, gay stuff: cat-calls, blow-kisses, Excessive Butt Cheek Exposure, indecent exposure, Hairy Chested Auto-Erotic Nipple Stimulation, man-prancing and simulated sex acts—all the flamboyancy some of us actually look forward to seeing at a gay-pride event. Not the firemen, though—they claimed the event caused headaches, anxiety, nightmares, peer taunting and irritable bowels.
Upon learning of this lawsuit, my gut reaction was, Are you serious? Nightmares? Anxiety? Irritable bowels? It is incomprehensible to me that these manly-man-hero types, who rush into collapsing, burning buildings, could get all vag-damaged about a gay picnic. However, after reading the complaints, I must admit, they did have several legitimate beefs, causing me to rethink my opinion. Let's examine:
1. Sexual Harassment?: On one hand, whatever, dudes. This is not a person going into his or her job every day suffering unwanted advances from superiors and being routinely touched or groped by some intra-office oaf or oafette. This was a one-time thingamajig—off premises, with no physical contact—where the worst that happened was their machismo got threatened.
On the other hand, fair is fair. If this was, say, the Oversexed Heterosexual Misogynist Construction Workers Pride Parade, and the city sent an engine full of firebabes into the fray, you can bet your daughter's dowry they would have sued the city for a crap-ton more than $30,000, and won!
2. Courage vs. Cowardice: On one hand, it takes a special kind of chickenshit to get his bowels in a twist over a little man-prancing. On the other, it was courageous for them to stand up and fight for what they believe is right, knowing full well they would be labeled homophobes at a time when “homophobe” is as ugly an epithet as “racist” or “pedophile” or “Cheney.”
3. Frivolous Lawsuit: I don't know which is worse, that these four hydrant monkeys might be faking the whole thing or that seeing gay people makes their colons go spastic. On the other hand, they were forced to participate: “If you refuse the direct order than [sic] you will be suspended,” the Battalion Chief reportedly told Hewitt.
So, yeah, the brass knowingly placed these men, each one of them as straight as a boner on a stick figure, in the middle of a sea of queer. Have you ever seen a flamboyant gay man lose his shit over a fireman calendar? It ain't pretty. Now multiply that reaction by tens of thousands and throw in a real, live flesh-and-muscle firefighter and, well, the SDFD, and City Hall, and every single San Diego citizen are really effin' lucky those guys didn't snap and turn the hoses on the crowd in an effort to extinguish the flamers—because that lawsuit would've taken everything but the petty cash.
4. Peer Hazing: In his complaint, Hewitt alleges, “derogatory communications by coworkers [for] being in the Gay Pride Parade,” to which most people's reaction would probably be, “Aw, your little friends were making fun of you? Boo-hoo.”
But, it is a brutal homophobic culture in the locker rooms of manly man occupations like firefighter, soldier or professional athlete. The potential for serious hazing is truly there—the kind of Lord of the Flies-type hazing that doesn't know the line between cruelty and humor, the kind of hazing that can really break a person in half.
5. Gay Paraders' Culpability: Along the route, the laddermen were subjected to verbal taunts such as “Show me your hose,” “Give me mouth to mouth” and even more abusive comments like “Fuck you, firemen” when they didn't play along. They also witnessed gestures such as “showing their penis, grabbing their crotch, rubbing nipples… and flipping us off,” wrote Capt. John Ghiotto in his affidavit. “I personally had a man approach me on the driver's side… and state, ‘You look hungry, why don't you have a Twinkie….' I felt like he was insinuating something sexual.”
Do ya think?! Wow, Captain, how did you ever break that code?
OK, on the one hand, hey, it was all in the name of a good time, right? Nobody got hurt, homosexuals are harmless, Twinkies are yummy. On the other, anyone who yelled, “Fuck you,” or gave the finger, or intentionally intimidated or distressed the cinderfellas with overt, graphic, explicit sexual conduct or innuendo are, in my opinion, callous, classless, non-actualized, unsympathetic loser scumbag asshole jagoffs, not necessarily in that order.
6. Homophobia?: “This complaint isn't about homosexuality or gay pride,” writes Hewitt. “This has to do with people in the workplace being threatened [and] sexually harassed,” and you know what, on one hand, I almost actually believe him.
But then, on the other, if this were the Hot Soccer Moms Who Just Got Divorced and Are Desperate For a Little Sumtin-Sumtin Pride Parade, well, I'm pretty sure everybody's bowels would've come out of that one whistlin' Dixie.
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