Flying While Gay

leisha hailey

Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey

Southwest Airlines has issues.

And those customer issues, on any given day or flight, appear arbitrary.

For example, little did lead guitarist for the punk rock band Green Day Billie Joe Armstrong know that flying while wearing “saggy pants” can evict you off Southwest Airlines. This past Labor Day weekend, on September 1, Armstrong was booted off a Southwest Airlines for “saggy pants.” When Armstrong, in disbelief, queried, “Don’t you have better things to do than worry about that?” The response from the flight attendant was curt and pointed: “Pull your pants up or you’re getting off the plane.”

Another example: little did film director Kevin Smith know that flying while being oversized could also have you evicted off Southwest. In February 2010 Smith was removed from his Southwest seat because he was deemed too obese to fly safely, albeit he was able to put both armrests down in accordance with airlines policy.

On the morning of September 26 both Leisha Hailey, actress and musician known for her role as Alice Pieszecki in the Showtime Networks production “The L Word,” and, her girlfriend/bandmate Camila Grey of “Uh Huh Her,” boarded Southwest Airlines Flight 2274. Hailey and the band are preparing to launch a 21-city tour to promote breast cancer awareness.

But little did Hailey and Grey know that kissing while flying could cause a kerfuffle with the airlines. Hailey and Grey, both incensed and humiliated, were escorted off the flight.

Hailey immediately tweeted: “We were escorted off the plane for getting upset about the issue. @SouthwestAir endorses homophobic employees. No one made her accountable.”

But Southwest thought their action was justified. Several passengers on Flight 2274 complained that their display of affection with each other was objectionably inappropriate, “characterizing the behavior as excessive.” And Hailey tweeted that a “Flt. attendant said that it was a ’family’ airline and kissing was not ok.”

With all the brouhaha about Hailey’s and Grey’s “excessive” and “inappropriate” smacking, of course, we all now want to know what kind of kiss was it to bring national attention to it. What category of kissing does theirs fall in the science of kissing called philematology?

The Romans created three categories of kissing: 1) “Osculum,” a kiss on the cheek, 2) “Basium,” a kiss on the lips, and 3) “Savolium,” a deep kiss.

“We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one modest kiss,” Hailey’s written statement said. “We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple.”

more from irene monroeHow could “one modest kiss,” a Category 2, at best, on the Romans’ scale, cause such a kerfuffle?

According to Southwest, their action was non-discriminatory and had everything to do with customer satisfaction.

“Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight,” the airline said in a news release posted on its website.

However, I like to know how many heterosexual couples have been or would be thrown off Southwest Airlines for kissing?

Would it even be an issue?

While their peck on the lips should be a non-issue — for passengers and Southwest — the elephant that weighed Flight 2274 down was homophobia.

“No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn’t make it any less loud,” Hailey’s statement said. “You can’t whisper hate. We ask this airline to teach their employees to not discriminate against any couple, ever, regardless of their own beliefs.”

Southwest would say that they don’t discriminate. As a matter of fact, Southwest Airlines boasts that it is the official airlines for several of our national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) organizations.

“At Southwest Airlines, we take pride in our outreach and commitment to the GLBT community. We have community partnerships with a variety of local and national organizations who are dedicated to GLBT causes and initiatives. As an example, we are the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA), and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). We look forward to welcoming you onboard soon,” stated on its website.

However, while you can do LGBTQ sensitivity trainings and alter laws in this country to do the right thing toward a disenfranchised segment of the population, we cannot always alter the hearts and attitudes of its citizens. For some of the passengers as well as Southwest’s fight crew, seeing two people of the same gender kissing is seen as a signed decree by the airlines sanctioning sexual depravity.

Rev. Irene MonroeAnd let’s not forget, that even in 2011, the “ick factor,” the revulsion some heterosexuals feel toward the way we LGBTQ people engage in social and sexual intimacy can still exist. Altering the individual hearts and minds of these folks will take a while, if not a lifetime.

But Southwest Airlines serves the public. And they have to do it better.

It is my hope that the next time when two kissing lesbians board one of their flights Southwest will not escort them off because they happen to be flying while gay.

Rev. Irene Monroe


  1. Jack says

    Jeez, a kiss is just a kiss. Personally, I like to see women kissing. What’s the big deal?

    Now, pants hanging halfway down to a guy’s knees? No thanks, dude. I don’t want to see your butt crack, and I sure don’t want to see your junk. It doesn’t matter if it’s a style, or a cultural expression for your racial group, just cover it up. Really.

    But c’mon Southwest Airlines. Get real. It’s not worth the lost customers to pick on a couple for kissing. Do a little sensitivity training and get your homophobic employees under control.

  2. Gary says

    Not being there to observe the particular situations, it seems like the policy, if stated, is arbitrary and capricious based upon the individual flight attendant. Escalation is what gets the news.

    As a musician with an instrument that fits in the overhead 99% of the time, it is far from rare that a gate agent insists it won’t fit and I must gate check it. In reality, I’ve never run into a flight attendant that wouldn’t help find a place for it the remaining 1% of the time. So what is the issue? Some gate agents are more arbitrary than others.

    The most astute thing said by Rodney King many years ago: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

  3. RonF says

    Actually, there’s a simple reason for this. Homosexual couples kissing in public is disgusting. Heterosexual couples kissing in public isn’t.

    • Nanette says

      Oh boy! RonF please stop hating people that aren’t like yourself. If you are black, you should be ashamed of yourself because you are hated, ALOT! If you’re not, don’t you want the world to move forward and respect other people? Yes, there are gay people out here and guess what that will not change. So, get over it! STOP HATING!

  4. harry wood says

    I do not see the need for couples to kis on a plane, if one is flying and the other not, then perhaps at the gate when they part. I may give my mate a kissa at the gate, but kissing is usually a personal thing not done in public. This couple did not consider the feelings of correct public actions and did what they wanted to do without any concern for others. They need to keep their private feeling private as does my daughter and her feamale mate.

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