Gay Man Kicked Off Bus In Sweden

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday March 3, 2010

A gay man in Sweden was escorted off a public bus after the driver ordered him off and made sexually charged comments to him.

The matter was investigated by the Stockholm discrimination ombudsman, which found that the man was the victim of anti-gay discrimination, reported English language Swedish online news resource The Local in a March 2 story.

The article said that the man in question was asked by the bus driver, "Do you think it is fun that I can see your panties?" The comment evidently was in reference to the young man's underwear being visible above his trousers, a style known in the United States as "sagging." But the driver went further, adding a sexually suggestive remark, saying, "In fact, you best leave the bus as I could get turned on."

The young man went to the back of the bus. In his complaint, he says that he was "shocked and angry." But the bus did not continue on its way, and after a time two security officers entered the bus and escorted him off, telling him that the driver had felt uncomfortable with him on board. The young man said that at this point he felt "offended" and that he had been "sexually harassed."

But attempts to follow up on the issue were fruitless, and the young man resorted to taking his story to the media. When his mother spoke to a superior of the bus driver, she was offered movie tickets and a houseplant, the article said. The man's family then turned to their lawyer, and the issue went before the discrimination ombudsman, which found for the young man, and suggested that a settlement be reached.

Sweden is seen as one of the world's more GLBT-friendly nations. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Sweden more than sixty years ago; last year, Swedish lawmakers cleared the way for full marriage equality for gay and lesbian families. Swedish society is generally quite accepting, with anti-gay discrimination being banned in the constitution.

Recent media accounts of individuals being denied service by transportation providers include an account from last November of an incident in which a New York cabbie threw two gay men out his cab. The cabbie said that the men were engaged in sexual activity in the back seat, and that he had asked them to stop before finally ordering them out. The passengers, 27-year-old Paul Bruno and his boyfriend, said that they were merely hugging, and denied that any overtly sexual activity was taking place that would have distracted the driver.

So-called "service refusals" can be costly, because cabbies can be fined for denying rides to passengers. A third strike can even result in the loss of a cabbie's license.

A similar incident took place in Minneapolis in 2005 when a cabbie, who was thought to be Muslim, ordered a trio of gay men out of his cab after he saw one man give one of the others a kiss. At that point, one of the men said, the driver lashed out at them verbally, "making statements like he can't be surrounded by people like us--it was against his religion," and told the men to "'Burn in hell,' 'Go to hell.'"

In Las Vegas, the city's Taxi Authority, which is a branch of law enforcement, was recently reported to be using a policy handbook that warned its officers to use gloves and other protective equipment when dealing with prostitutes, drug users, and gays, labeling all three demographics as "high risk" for carrying diseases.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.