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Why it's a mistake to focus on the United Airlines passenger's sexuality

Reports of David Dao's sex life are nothing but thinly-veiled homophobia

Why it's a mistake to focus on the United Airlines passenger's sexuality
David Dao in footage shared to Facebook

The world gasped in collective horror this week when footage emerged of a man being violently dragged from a United Airlines plane at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

David Dao, a 69-year-old doctor married to a woman, was one of four travelers kicked off the overbooked flight. When he resisted, aviation police forcibly removed him, leaving him dazed and bloodied.

Dao was hospitalized, telling ‘everything’ hurts. Meanwhile, United’s stock value has plummeted, following a back-handed apology from CEO Oscar Monroe, in which he referred to ‘re-accommodating’ customers, and a leaked memo in which he calls Dao ‘disruptive and belligerent’. A softer apology has now been issued.

I’m as fascinated by this story as the next person. The latest twist in the sorry saga is that the flight wasn’t even overbooked. But now, a surprising new intersection has come into view. Not least to us, an LGBTI publication always looking for a queer angle.

Conservative corners of the press, naturally, are digging up ‘shocking’ details about Dao’s personal life. Forget United. It’s now Dao who’s the sole focus of (some) headlines, containing eye-catching words like ‘gay sex’, ‘drugs’ and ‘criminal past’.

I’m not going to link to the stories in question, or repeat their salacious details and allegations, like some have, and neither the substantiated claims, or Dao’s denials.

Because none of it matters to me. Not least because some on social media have questioned whether the right Dr David Dao has in fact been identified. And it shouldn’t to you. Dao’s past, his life outside of that plane and that hospital bed, has no bearing on what happened to him. Technically, his aforementioned age and marital status don’t matter, either.

His criminal record has as much to do with this story as whether he’s a fan of the Kardashians. His sexual history matters as much as what he had for breakfast that morning, or what color socks he prefers. He could’ve slept with Brad Pitt for all I care, or be anti-gay himself – it’s irrelevant. His act of paying for a ticket to board a plane is an equalizer.

Most of the people perpetrating this agenda are aware of this, but they’re calculated. They’re playing to their readers’ underlying hateful and homophobic attitudes, while sneakily offering an olive branch to a rich and powerful corporation they’re elsewhere criticizing.

The subtext here is that Dao somehow deserved what happened to him. And bringing gay sex into it makes me see red.

It’s total bullshit, and malignantly immoral on multiple levels. A victim-blaming smear campaign, and an insult to anyone who believes in equality. Dao’s sexuality is neither a justification for what happened, nor a reason for us to suddenly get behind his cause. We should lend him the same support, however he identifies.

Because his treatment is a human rights issue that should shock all of us. In what other scenarios could our rights be unexpectedly taken away as a matter of cold, hard business protocol?

As for the subsequent emergence of the media’s discriminatory hidden agenda? That’s merely another lesson in how messed up the world can be that we must heed. The only LGBTI angle here is that when push comes to shove, many pockets of the media still hate us.



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