Remember back in the day when black people couldn’t swim in public pools because white people didn’t want to catch being black?
Luckily that doesn’t happen anymore. Well, save a minor incident where 60 black kids were kicked out en masse from the Valley Swim Club in the suburbs of Philadelphia after being told there were no minorities allowed in the club. There was a fear, as expressed by the club president, that the “kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club.”
But hey, that was a long time ago, way back in 1959. Oops, I mean 2009. But hey, you know how society is. Two steps forward, one step back, am I right?
Which brings us to 2011 at The Pavilion in Hazard, Ky., where Kim Haynes, a Pavilion employee, was brave enough to finally speak the truth about gay people swimming in public pools: It’s against God. Of course, everybody knows that. Well, good Christians who apparently liberally interpret the Bible, do at least.
On June 10, two gay men, described by the Lexington Herald-Leader as having “intellectual and developmental disabilities,” were visiting the pool along with a caregiver from Mending Hearts Inc., a social-service group.
Reports vary about what the two men were doing. A Pavilion lifeguard says they were kissing and hugging. Their caregiver says they were only sitting on each other’s laps. Haynes says they were “fondling” each other, though not each other’s private parts. And so he told them to get lost.
According to Mending Hearts executive director Shirlyn Perkins, “They were informed that ‘gay people’ weren’t allowed to swim there.”
“This is completely outrageous. The Pavilion is owned by the City of Hazard and paid for by our tax dollars,” said Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer.
“My clients, who already feel ridiculed and different, left the city-owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in ‘normal’ activities that everyday ‘normal’ people do,” Perkins said.
When their caregiver said they were being discriminated against, Haynes said, “You need to read the Bible more often, we don’t tolerate that down here.”
It is, of course, true. “Thou shall not swim whilst gay in a public pool in Kentucky” is a little-known commandment, probably because the only place it exists is scribbled in red ink in the margins of Haynes’ very own Bible.
Haynes isn’t the only class act working for the city of Hazard. In a press release, the city manager apologized “to CNN and to the staff of ‘Anderson Cooper 360’” because Charlotte Pearlman, the Pavilion manager, used “language which was disrespectful toward the public, including insulting and obscene language” when an “Anderson Cooper 360” staff member contacted her. According to the press release, “In the course of handling the large volume of media requests for comment and the many phone calls and messages from persons who supported or opposed the actions taken [on June 10], she became frustrated and used inappropriate language in the course of a telephone conversation with a staff member of the CNN show ‘Anderson Cooper 360’ while declining to comment on the pending story.”
Um, no comment? I think the fact that she used “insulting” and “obscene” language kind of speaks for itself.
To the City of Hazard’s credit, Haynes has been suspended (though only for five days), they plan to post signs at The Pavilion that include “sexual orientation” as part of their nondiscrimination policy and they plan to get their employees some diversity/sensitivity training. Apparently the Pavilion does have an unofficial no grab-assing policy for gays and straights alike, which they now plan to officially post and enforce regardless of whether the grab-assers are gay or straight.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world, she reviews rock ’n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister.