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Covering: One
man's story

Covering: One
man's story


The president of the PlanetOut Inc. division that owns The Advocate was asked to stop kissing his partner by an angry cab driver. Has this ever happened to you?

As The Advocate was preparing its special report on "covering"--the pressure to downplay our gay identities in public--a New York taxi ride turned into a upsetting covering incident for one of our own. On the evening of October 2, Bob Cohen, president of the magazine division of PlanetOut (our parent company) boarded a cab at Newark international airport along with his partner. On the way to Manhattan, the couple were shocked when their cab driver angrily demanded--in the midst of expressway traffic--that they stop showing affection for each other.

For Cohen, the episode raised broader questions about covering. Do most Advocate readers feel safer expressing affection in public than they once did? Or has our visible progress simply put us at greater risk of abuse by those who resent it? "I think these incidents may be on the upswing," Cohen said in an interview. "I'd like to know what our readers think."

The cab driver actually demanded that the two of you stop showing affection? As we reached the Lincoln Tunnel, I leaned in and gave my partner what I believed to be a very chaste kiss on the cheek. The driver suddenly turned around and yelled, "Please stop doing that. It's not allowed in my taxi!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "Excuse me?" I asked. He answered, "I don't allow that kind of behavior in my cab. It shows disrespect." Never did he straight-out say "gay," but I strongly doubt that if we were a straight couple he would have had an issue--even though he claimed that didn't matter.

What happened next? He slowed down in the middle of the expressway, still ranting. I thought he was going to kick us out of the cab. While he sped up again, I kept talking. At this point my partner kicked me and motioned me to stop agitating the driver--which I did. I sat back and became silent, and we stopped touching. We finally got home and I paid the cabbie. I didn't want this to escalate to violence by skipping out on the fare. But I didn't tip him.

What were you feeling during all this? Of course, I was angry and shocked--this had never happened before, not to me, not to anyone else I knew. I also felt shamed, like when you go to a foreign country and you don't realize something is against their local custom, like, "You can't wear white on a Friday." Sadly, I felt like an abused second-class citizen. I was being told that I couldn't act out natural and normal acts. We were being asked to modify our behavior because gay public displays of affection make others uncomfortable. Who would think that in the back of a cab, in a metropolitan area, in the 21st century, this would be happening?

Do you think that when you stopped being affectionate, the cabbie "won"? No, he just reestablished control of the environment. He may have won this skirmish, but it's a long war we are fighting here for equality.

Do you think this incident has anything to do with the fact that the driver hailed from the Caribbean, which is not known for being especially gay-friendly? As a great-grandchild of immigrants, I do celebrate diversity, but one of the consequences of that is, clashing with people who come from more traditional, homophobic societies. Of course we want to respect them, but if they operate within our American framework, they need to understand what society they have entered.

Did you report what happened to the taxi and limousine commission? We are in the process of making a complaint to the Newark Taxi cab company. We don't want him to get fired; we want him to get reeducated.

How widespread do you think this is? I think these incidents may be on the upswing. I'd like to know what our readers think.

TELL US YOUR STORY: Have you ever been forced to cover in a taxi--or in some other public environment? In no more than 400 words, tell us what happened. Be sure to include your name, age, occupation, and city of residence. If we decide to publish your story in the magazine, we will ask you to send us a photo of yourself and your partner. Send your submission to

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