Fabulous in the Face of Fundamentalists

“We’re here, we’re queer, and we’ll be walking around your local Barnes and Noble during Christian Living Day, holding each other’s hands.”

At 11:30 a.m on Saturday, like a swarm of rainbow colored locusts, a group of forty Antiochians descended on the Beavercreek Barnes and Noble in response to a management- imposed Christian Living Day. Not a thought of protest graced the protestors rainbow-bandana’d heads. Instead, their goal was to formally request a “Gay Day,” after an earlier inquiry from an Antioch faculty member had been shot down by manager Dan Renfro.
Antioch professor Christine Smith was the first to make students on campus aware of Christian Living Day on returning from a shopping trip to the book store last week. At the check out desk of Barnes and Noble, she had engaged in a dialogue with the employees, who said that they were upset about the event and had been denied the request to take the day off by their fundamentalist Christian manager. Encouraged by the employees, Smith returned the next day to speak to manager Dan Renfro, who claimed he was just responding to customer requests. Book authors had contacted him about signings, he said. When pressed, he also admitted to arranging the ministers, gospel choir, crisis pregnancy center and recruiters who where scheduled for the day.

Smith asked if she could request a comparable “gay day” along similar lines: a gay men’s choir, gay and lesbian authors. Smith’s offer to put him into contact with all the relevant parties, however, did little to spark Renfro’s enthusiasm. Renfro went on to say that Smith just had her own opinion and was trying to cause trouble.  Following her encounter, Smith contacted Barnes and Noble’s corporate office, before bringing the issue back to campus. Students quickly threw together a planning meeting in the Queer Center that Thursday and posted fliers advertising a “Gay Takeover” for Saturday.

The air in the parking lot that morning was one of mischievous glee and anticipation, as the group compared outfit choices and discussed appropriate public display of affection; Hand-holding and kissing with “church tongue,” were both deemed appropriate. The en masse entrance of the fabulous forty caused heads to turn so fast that whiplash became a serious concern of customers and employees alike.

The next hours mostly consisted of browsing. Lesbian and Gay Studies, and the woefully vanilla Sexuality section were both popular. Next on the list was engaging the Christian authors in conversation,  while tallying who got the most blatant stares. Many queers were disappointed to find that what had been touted as a nine-hour showcase of fundamentalist Christian values, in reality was nothing more than a hyped-up book signing. Ministers, crisis pregnancy center and illustrious promotions from various sponsoring organizations were as notably absent as the manager himself. Renfro was forced to tone down the event, so the unofficial word goes, after Barnes and Noble’s corporate division had received a series of complaints about the religious agenda-promotion stunt. Renfro himself was not available for comment.

Whether it was their phone calls that pressured B&N to curb their local management, or those of other consumers concerned with a national book store chain endorsing a specific religious perspective, the forty protestors banked the success as one for direct action executed in style. Meanwhile, for all who are interested in having their favorite lesbian poet autograph her work at Barnes and Noble, while tapping their feet to a gay man’s choir, a “formal request for Cultural Celebration of Gay Day” is going around campus for signatures.

“Formal Request for Cultural Celebration of Gay Day at Barnes and Noble Booksellers of Dayton at Beavercreek

In an effort to support cultural celebrations equitably, I request that Barnes and Noble Booksellers of Dayton and Beavercreek sponsor “Gay Day”. This will be a cultural celebration and information sharing of community resources, community activities, and networking for the Dayton area. This will give Barnes and Noble the opportunity to highlight gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) authors and showcase to the community the books and resources available at your store. Having the opportunity to hear GLBT authors make presentations about their work will be an exciting and attractive event for Barnes and Noble and the greater Dayton area.

Thank you for proving us with the opportunity to collaborate together to celebrate literature, community, and culture.”

Thank you, Barnes and Nobles, for giving us an opportunity for an impromptu Gay Day of our own. May there be many, many more.