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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is it OK to say 'gay'?

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2009 at 12:55 PM

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Here's a question and some tales of days gone by.

In last week's "Grazing" column I mentioned that Calavino Donati has opened Calavino’s Soul Kitchen inside My Sister's Room, a lesbian bar, in East Atlanta Village.

That prompted Calavino to respond:

Yes, we are serving my menu out of My Sister's Room in East Atlanta (right next to the Glenwood) but, it is no different setting/atmosphere/food wise than the Roman Lily Cafe was. I am gay, my restaurants are not, they have and will always be for anyone that's hungry and wants me to feed them.

I am curious if people think it was inappropriate for me to mention that the setting is a lesbian bar during hours the restaurant is not in operation. I would not, analogously, mention that a restaurant was mainly patronized by black people, but I have rather frequently noted that people whose first language is English may find themselves alone at an Asian or Hispanic restaurant.

Years ago, when I was spending nearly half my time in San Francisco, I wrote about a taqueria near the Castro District. It was full of life-size sculptures in the Day-of-the-Dead style and served really great food.

I received several enraged emails from readers who took me to task for not warning them that it was a restaurant mainly patronized by gay people.

Closer to home, a full-service restaurant operated inside a gay bar in Midtown Promenade for a while. At the time,  I was doing a weekly gig on WGST Radio and I joked that it might be a good place for Rev. Charles Stanley, the pastor of First Baptist Church, to visit since he could dine there without worry of being sexually harassed.

The good Reverend, as head of the Southern Baptist Convention, had called AIDS God's plague on homosexuals. He was also at the time living a quite hypocritical life. His wife had filed for divorce because of his alleged sexual indiscretions. Stanley did not permit divorced people to serve as deacons in his church but refused to step down when his own divorce, which he fought for three years, occurred.

My comment caused an avalanche of angry calls to WGST. Sean Hannity, who was working at the station then, replayed my comment throughout his show, milking the controversy for every drop of homophobic Christian venom he could. I ended up quitting the gig after I began getting calls to appear on shows all over the country. It was not my idea of a fun career move.

So, I've wrestled with the question whether to mention a restaurant's gay setting ever since these two experiences.

Should I have mentioned that Calavino's Soul Kitchen is inside a lesbian bar? Is this now a non-issue, as Wayne argues?

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