Letter to the Editor: The thing about advertising Chick-fil-A on an “inclusive” campus

Graphic by Corrina Reiss.

The Butler Collegian is committed to sharing diverse viewpoints from across the university and to upholding values of free speech. However, The Collegian does not endorse or promote opinions contained within any letter to the editor.

Dear President James Danko and Butler Administration,

Hello!

My name is Kay Hyman. I am a sophomore here at Butler, and I am double majoring in theatre and creative writing. In addition to my required courses, I have participated in the Butler Athletic Bands program, as I have played the trombone since sixth grade and absolutely love performing.

So, because I also happen to be gay, I will admit that Chick-fil-A’s presence at both the football and basketball games makes me more than a little uncomfortable, considering how openly anti-LGBTQ they have been in the past.

I don’t know much about business. Obviously, with my classes being so centered around the arts, there are many gaps in my knowledge of how these sponsorships work or what steps need to be taken to create change.

But I know very much about what it’s like to grow up queer. 

I first realized what I was in fifth grade — when I was only eleven years old — and I was so horrified that I became set on “fixing” it. I shut down every “wrong” thought or feeling by reminding myself of how disgusting it was, how everyone would be made uncomfortable by my presence if they knew. It became vitally important for me to lie, both to my loved ones and to myself, in order to convince the world that I was born normal and unbroken. 

I was only eleven years old.

As you can assume, my strategy here didn’t last, though it held shockingly well for about five years. But then I hit sophomore year of high school, and those rotten emotions returned, too strong for me to beat back with my little pink lunchbox and can-do attitude. I can recall days in which I opened my eyes in the morning and felt withdrawn and anxious until sleep took me again that night. Yet I slapped on a happy face and hid as best I could from those I cared about most because I couldn’t stomach the thought of rejection. 

Having grown up in Ohio, I’m quite familiar with the huge, God-fearing billboards. I have a very vivid memory of riding in the car, with my parents in the front seats and my childhood best friend sitting next to me, and seeing a great big one along the highway that read: “HOLY MATRIMONY IS ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN.” I remember the sick, twisted feeling in my gut, the cold sweat forming on my head and the thought that I just did not belong.

I was sixteen years old.

Then I came out shortly after graduation. It went better than I had expected. Everyone I told accepted me, assured me that it changed nothing and that they only wanted me to be happy. This should have been great for me — and, in the long run, it has.

But I was so caught up in my belief that I was made unwanted that, for the next week, I was too anxious and ashamed to hold down food. For months afterward, the thought of my sexuality — of everyone around me knowing — would often attack when I was with those I care about most, preventing me from eating for days at a time. 

I was eighteen years old.

After turning nineteen, things finally improved. I learned how to talk about myself and who I really am in front of the people I love. I’ve used a lot of my creative writing courses here as a means of revisiting and rationalizing everything I have gone through, and, because of this, I’ve become very comfortable with the queer person that I am.

But eight years is a very long time to spend hating yourself. I know now that I did not deserve what I endured, but for nearly a decade I was convinced that I had it coming, and there are people out there who will be convinced of that for decades more.

Chick-fil-A’s logo flashing boldly across the screens at Hinkle Fieldhouse gives the same message as that stupid billboard: “You don’t belong.” I put so much energy into playing music and cheering on our team at those games, and then I see that restaurant so proudly advertised and realize that my hard-sought self love would be ridiculed in a heartbeat for cash. I can promise you that there are other people in that stadium who are receiving the exact same message.

This university speaks so much about promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on this campus. But all the praise I see for this homophobic chicken chain makes it seem an awful lot like the administration would turn a blind eye to hatred if it meant it could make money and be popular. 

I know this is not the intention. I know how many Butler students love this restaurant in particular, and that it’s not them being homophobic — it’s just them being a bunch of hungry college kids. As a hungry college kid myself, I can understand that, even if I don’t like it.

But if Chick-fil-A could be replaced with some other food company at the athletic events, then these hungry college kids would have a potentially better place to support, and us gays can feel a lot more welcome. 

I’m certain this is much easier said than done, and, again, I know very little about how sponsorships work. So, please — let me know what can be done and how I can help. For eleven-year-old me who attacked herself nonsensically, and for all those who are still doing so, I want to create some positive change!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter. Again, please let me know what I might be able to do to help.

Sincerely,

Kay Hyman

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