Couple takes to Twitter over alleged discrimination
Heather Gold is a self-professed web veteran. She regularly communicates on Twitter and Facebook, and competes to be mayor of check in points on FourSquare. That experience came in handy recently when she used her social media savvy to draw attention to an incident involving her and her partner Mariko Tamaki last Saturday. The couple allege they were victims of discrimination due to their sexual orientation on December 4th. According to Tamaki and Gold, they were kicked out of a toy store called the Toy Terminal in Queen's Quay Terminal for a same sex public display of affection, which the owner of the store allegedly deemed "inappropriate for families."
According to Gold, she and Tamaki were "hugging with our hands clasped behind each others backs and [engaged in] a rated G kiss." They were then evicted from the store amidst threats of police involvement. Gold immediately took to Twitter, informing her 6,230 followers of the situation. She used her mobile phone to start a stream, share a photo of the store, and call for a boycott.
What followed was an outpouring of support from Gold's virtual community, messages were soon after sent to her and Tamaki, and the retweets piled up. The platform allowed Gold to retell her side of the story as wells a to ask and answer questions and to take suggestions for courses of action from her many followers and other interested parties who had taken note.
The same day that the confrontation occurred, the couple received a series of tweets from the management of Queen's Quay Terminal itself (the building where the Toy Terminal is located). They tweeted: "Thank you all for your support for @heathr and @marikotamaki, we始re sorry you didn始t feel welcomed today. Rest assured we have heard your concerns, and are taking steps to address the situation. EVERYONE is welcome here, no exceptions."
Queen's Quay Terminal then requested that future communication between the parties be done in private. The couple refused this request, as they felt everyone had the right to know how the situation would be addressed. Queen's Quay Terminal declined to comment for this article, as did the American company Brookfield Global Real Estate, which owns them.
When reached by phone, the owner of the Toy Terminal (who would not give his name) said that it was a family store and what he had witnessed was not good for families. He told me that he is far from homophobic, but felt that the couple had gone too far with their affection in the store, claiming that there was some grabbing of body parts that went on.
This is a statement that the couple vehemently deny (they say they were wearing winter coats at the time). They say they tried to engage the proprietor in conversation to understand the situation better, but according to their version of events, he would not speak to them about it, look them in the face, nor shake their hands.
The couple question what exactly made the display of affection "not good for families." They feel targeted due to their sexual orientation. "We do not accept that hugging while lesbian is in any conflict with a family appropriate environment," Gold explains.
It has been over a week since the incident occurred. Followers of @Heathr and @Marikotamaki have called for action, and many have agreed to boycott the store. Gold has encouraged her followers to tell the owner why.
Will this have any effect? In the absence of commentary from Queen's Quay, will this all blow over like our mayor's 911 call last month? Last week the couple toyed with the idea of a hug-in at Queen's Quay Terminal, but they've also gone the more traditional route. In addition to filing a complaint with the property management company, Gold and Tamaki have started work on a human rights complaint.
Writing and photo by Alex Rao
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