Dollywood Disses Gays and Lesbians: Is Dolly Parton’s Pro-Gay Response Enough?
Like “I can’t even think straight”? Or “God is gay.” Or “Marriage is so gay”?
Apparently, not by the security team at Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, theme park, which, ironically, has to be one of the gayest places in the state. I mean, do straight people even go there?
Last month, security stopped a woman who was wearing the pro-gay marriage message “Marriage is so gay” on her t-shirt and asked her to turn it inside-out in order to comply with Dollywood’s strict dress code. She didn’t put up a fight and did as she was told, but she filed a complaint after the visit.
The country singer, who owes her longevity largely to her status as a gay icon (because gay people are the most loyal fans in entertainment, Liza Minnelli and Cher will tell you that!) and whose employees should know better than to mess with the gay and lesbian community, issued a well-worded response to the incident that covered all the bases — and her ass. (Seriously, Tracy Morgan needs to consider hiring Parton’s PR spinmeister.)
I am truly sorry for any hurt or embarrassment regarding the gay and lesbian T-shirt incident at Dollywood’s Splash Country recently. Everyone knows of my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome. We do have a policy about profanity or controversial messages on clothing or signs. It is to protect the individual wearing or carrying them, as well as to keep down fights or problems by those opposed to it at the park. We even offer free shirts in exchange to those who want to remain on the park. I am and was on tour when this was brought to my attention and I am looking further into the incident and hope and believe it was more policy than insensitivity. I am very sorry it happened at all.
I suppose it is within a company’s rights to determine its own rules and regulations, but I’m so over being told what I can and cannot wear in public. A few months ago, I was denied entry into a club in Melbourne because I was wearing a t-shirt, albeit one with long sleeves that’s “dry clean only.” Never mind that there were other patrons making their way inside, undisturbed, wearing t-shirts. They were wearing coats over theirs, so it created the illusion of being dressed up, despite the ragged jeans and dirty sneakers covering their bottom halves. I told the woman at the door (who was wearing a jacket over a t-shirt!) that she should consider spending some time in front of the mirror before coming to work and enforcing such a ridiculous dress code, especially for what is essentially a glorified dive bar.
I can live with fancy restaurants and their jackets-required policies. When I was staying in Lebua in Bangkok last month, the woman checking me in was sure to inform me of the dress code strictly enforced by the rooftop bar and restaurant: no shorts and no flip flops. Unfortunately, I forgot to inform the people who were meeting me there one night, and they didn’t get in. Again, I could live with that.
But when you start arbitrarily determining who gets to enter a venue and who doesn’t, hiding behind a dress code, it’s so easy to interpret denied entry as homophobia, or racial profiling, or even sexism. A few weeks ago, when I was on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi, I bought a t-shirt that said, “Sorry girls, I’m gay.” In general, I think of t-shirts with sentences on them as fashion no-nos. Still, I couldn’t resist. I got caught up in a silly moment and a sillier slogan. (Plus, green is so my color!) But I know better than to wear it in any of the Southeast Asia cities I’ve been in, even in Bangkok, which is widely considered to be the gay capital of the area.
I learned my lesson the hard way back in high school when my trigonometry teacher pulled me aside one day and asked me to remove a pin I was wearing that said, “Thank you for not picking your nose.” Her classroom, her rules. Like the lesbian at Dollywood, I did as I was told. Years later, the pin doesn’t seem nearly as funny as it did at the time, but I still haven’t forgiven my teacher for being such a prude and daring to revoke my freedom of speech. I suppose that today she’d be more concerned about gun-toting students than my silly little pin.
As for Parton, I’m giving her a pass — for now. Too often we hear bosses say the appropriate actions will be taken and never find out what those actions are. I hope the press doesn’t just drop this story. Though I wouldn’t necessarily prescribe dismissal for the offending security guard, I do think some education is in order. How about a mandatory night out with a group of Parton’s gayest fans, drag show included? Or maybe tickets to one of Parton’s concerts would kill both birds with one stub. Next to a Cher spectacle, isn’t that pretty much the gayest show on earth anyway?
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