Queer Goes To Chick-Fil-A
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” — Matthew 15:11
“When you vote with your dollar, people with more dollars get more votes.” — Ian Danskin
“There is no ethical consumption under capitalism” — Leftist Proverb
Chick-Fil-A is trending right now as another cohort of young queer activists discovers their notoriously anti-lgbt activities, so I thought now might be as good a time as any to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of years: actually try Chick-Fil-A.
I was raised in an a relatively progressive household, and moreover I’ve never been all about fast food in general. By the time I found out that Chick-Fil-A was even a thing, it was in the context of learning that it was a conservative Christian company that supported anti-LGBT activist groups. I have only ever known of this chain as a thing to be boycotted, before I even fully came to terms with my own LGBT identity. I have never tasted their reportedly delicious sandwiches, despite curiosity piquing on multiple occasions.
Lately, that curiosity has grown, and continues to grow every time the call for boycotts goes around. Don’t get me wrong; I hate corporate “giving” that fuels hate groups and institutional oppression of my people. I hate that corporations in general will push a political agenda in order to associate their brands with ideas and values that people care about deep in their hearts, to co-opt human feeling and passion for profit. That’s why I really couldn’t be bothered about the Gillette ad that got so much attention a few months back: I care a great deal about deconstructing toxic masculinity, but we really shouldn’t be trusting a corporation to do that for us, especially since they aren’t doing it that well anyway.
I sure hope this doesn’t come out the wrong way, but I’m not convinced boycotting is the end-all of economic activism. It can certainly be a big part of a successful movement; it can raise awareness and put economic pressure on a company to do the right thing. But I and my friends have been boycotting this company for well over a decade, and it hasn’t changed its policies or giving practices yet. And say we do manage to convince them that it’s not good business to campaign against a minority group that is rising in power and visibility in the 21st century worldwide — that doesn’t stop the organizations they’re giving to from continuing to raise money from other sources and working to advance their agenda.
And honestly, I just want to try one of their sandwiches. It’s as simple as that. I like to try new foods, and while it’s true I’m still not really into fast food, I’ve heard that their stuff is made to be a bit healthier and tastes a lot better as a result. I like Five Guys for very similar reasons, so I’ve suspected for years that I would like Chick-Fil-A, on a purely hedonic level. And I want to find out how true that is, before I go back to shunning them for their shitty politics.
How do I justify this to myself? Well, how do I justify the years of binge-drinking during and after my divorce? How do I justify owning and regularly driving a car when my planet is suffocating on carbon emissions? How do I justify voting for a candidate I can’t really get behind, just to keep their opponent out of office? How do I even justify living, knowing that my existence on the American continent is made possible only by centuries of European imperialism and the decimation of native peoples? The answer is: I don’t justify it. Not everything I do is morally consistent or purpose-driven, and I feel no need to hide this fact. Even this essay isn’t really a justification. I’m just writing my feelings and thoughts about a meal. It’s more a restaurant review than an op-ed. The point is: at the core, I’m still a human with cravings and drives that I don’t like to ignore. Being openly queer is a direct result of my choice not to indefinitely forgo individual gratification and fulfillment for the sake of moral standards and structures I had no part in developing. This doesn’t just go for the moral standards I disagree with; it also goes for the ones I agree with. Does that make me a hypocrite? Oh, most certainly. But that’s a different essay.
If there’s anything I can say for myself, it’s that on balance I think I’ve been doing alright by the cause. I’ve devoted a great deal of my personal resources to advocating for my people. I’ve written a lot on the subject, here and on other online platforms. I’ve attended rallies and protests. I’ve been active on campus with community-building and educational programs and awareness campaigns. I’ve talked with administrators in my university about the importance of inclusive restroom facilities and preferred-name policies. I regularly come out in public to people I barely know so that I can broaden their perspectives and let them know how to be more sensitive to queer issues, instead of keeping quiet for my own safety. I’m banking on that reservoir of activist cred to protect me from any moral taint that might have sticked to my shoes when I walked into the place. (I’m wearing new red canvas sneakers today, so I really hope the moral taint levels will be manageable.)
The location I picked is one that I have a history with already, of a sort. I actually walked in once, to ask for a job application, back when I was a dropout and needed work. My brother’s then-girlfriend, now-wife worked there on breaks, and said it wasn’t bad. So I carefully combed my hair over the shaved sides of my head, went in, and tried to get a job. I didn’t even get a callback. Maybe they noticed the stubble. Later, I spend a few years working at the gas station at the same street corner, and occasionally the manager from that Chick-Fil-A would come to get gas from us. Once, she stopped me while I was emptying the trash by the pumps and gave me a tract titled “Jesus Loves You.” She was really nice. I enjoyed the tract. I’m a sucker for good fiction. Now, even though I’ve moved across town and changed genders and am completely unrecognizable, that location is still there, and it’s still the closest Chick-Fil-A to where I live. After working up a good appetite in the gym, I was ready to take the plunge. And you know what?
It was the best damned chicken sandwich I ever had. If you’re queer and you want to betray your people and your cause for a little short-term pleasure, I’m sure you could do much worse than indulging in a chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A.