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This past weekend saw Sydney’s Gay Mardi Gras come to town, and while it’s Australia’s largest, most celebrated LGBTQ event of the year, two gay men had a less-than-stellar opportunity with a local Uber driver. And while Uber as a company was rather supportive of the Sydney LGBTQ community during the celebration — it even changed route maps to rainbows that weekend — that certainly doesn’t keep a homophobic Uber driver from acting rude or discriminating against queer passengers.
Just one day after Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebration, Aaron Brown, 27, claims he and his friend, Ryan Ottey, were kicked out of an Uber they were sharing by a homophobic Uber driver.
“We reached South Dowling Street, and I was resting my head on Ryan’s shoulder,” he told one of Sydney’s local news stations. “He kissed me on the forehead and the driver immediately turned around and said, ‘Not in my car. I’m not driving you anymore. Get out of my car.’ We were just dumbfounded and thought it was a joke, so we questioned him and asked why. He just repeated himself and said, ‘I can’t drive you anymore. This is my car, and I’m not driving that’ — talking about us.”
Ottey caught some of the encounter with the homophobic Uber driver on camera. He specifically caught the driver saying, “I don’t want to take you. You can book another cab.”
Following the guys’ discriminatory experience with the ride-sharing app, Uber offered to reimburse the guys for the ride. “This isn’t the regular Uber experience, and you shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of inappropriate behaviour,” read the app’s apology. “[Uber] will be looking into this trip and taking the appropriate steps to ensure this experience doesn’t continue. Our technology is a two-way street for both riders and driver-partners, and driver-partners that behave inappropriately may have their access removed.”
Brown wasn’t particularly pleased with Uber’s apology, calling it “generic” and saying, “That driver should not have been on the road at all.”
A spokesperson for Uber has responded to the incident by saying, “Our community guidelines expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and make it clear to driver-partners this behaviour can result in them losing access to the Uber app.”
In addition to the homophobic Uber driver, the guys are now facing backlash online as well.
Aside from the incident with the homophobic Uber driver, the guys are also receiving hurtful messages online. Ottey, who took video footage of the driver, tells the Daily Mail, “I definitely wasn’t expecting the backlash from people who agree with what the driver did.”
Ottey tells the paper, “People have direct-messaged me telling me we deserved it, posted online calling us ‘AIDS spreaders,’ ‘alphabet soup victims,’ ‘no one should have to tolerate those fruits.'”
“It’s just such a strong reminder that there are so many still in our country that do not accept the LGBTQI community and wish us ill harm,” he says.