Other gay kisser speaks out

The other half of the gay couple that recently kissed on the dance floor at the Royal Palms – leading to one being detained by police – has spoken out.

gay

Aaron Chandler, left, and Kevin Barnard during their stay in Cayman. Photo: Submitted

Kevin Barnard, 28, of Cleveland, Ohio, said he has no clear idea why the police only detained his partner, 23-year-old Aaron Chandler.

‘My only theories as to why he did not detain me, are that he never addressed me personally, [and he] therefore gave me no warning as to the fictitious law,’ Mr. Barnard said. ‘He may have been trying to minimize a scene – as was his declaration – but clearly I was the one causing more of a scene. I’m a much more provocative dancer, kisser and more stereotypical in my appearance as a slender – some view as effeminate – man.’

Making the matter more puzzling is the fact the Mr. Barnard admits it was he who made a disparaging gesture to the police officer, prior to learning who he was.

After kissing several times on the dance floor with Mr. Barnard, Mr. Chandler was called over to talk to an off-duty police officer by a third party. Mr. Barnard thought the police officer was a member of the public harassing Mr. Chandler.

When Mr. Chandler returned, Mr. Barnard gestured at the officer.

‘We kissed one last time, and I flicked the man off with my middle finger as a message of defiance to what we both perceived as a heterosexist thug,’ Mr. Barnard said. ‘I do not stand for intimidation tactics, so I did what I normally would when someone implies I shouldn’t do something that I know to be right and wonderful.’

Mr. Barnard made it clear, however, he did not know the man who talked to Mr. Chandler was a police officer.

‘I did not at any point know he was a cop until after he grabbed Aaron and took him away,’ Mr. Barnard said. ‘It was several minutes later, after I and my family questioned his validity in the matter, that he produced his badge and ID to us for a two-second view.’

Once Mr. Chandler was taken away by another police officer, Mr. Barnard said he and his family asked the off-duty officer for directions to follow them to the police station.

‘We were informed that the officer taking him to the station would return him to our resort,’ Mr. Barnard said. ‘We were under the impression and scared that Aaron was getting arrested and that I should have been, by all logical accounts, as well.’

Mr. Barnard said he feared for Mr. Chandler after he was taken away.

‘Aaron is a strong-willed man,’ he said. ‘I was concerned that he would end up in further trouble or harm being on his own and isolated from public view, especially if he said something assertive which could be interpreted as smart talk.’

Mr. Barnard, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Cleveland State University, currently works at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Centre of Greater Cleveland. He met Mr. Chandler, who lives in Massachusetts, at a LGTB conference in February.

‘We have been going strongly ever since,’ Mr. Barnard said, adding he and Mr. Chandler are in a long-distance relationship for the time being.

‘Regardless of how infrequent we are together or the duration of our relationship, I will always share my affection with the man I love in any situation where it’s appropriate for anyone else to do so.’

Although he had never been here before, Mr. Barnard knew about the Cayman Islands because his parents had been here several times and had business interests here prior to Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

‘I had been forewarned of the conservative nature of Cayman, including its attitudes of decency policing,’ he said. ‘I knew in advance that there were no gay bars or clubs that were publicly advertised, so we expected a tepid welcome at best.’

Except for the incident at the Royal Palms, the couple enjoyed their stay here.

‘I loved the cuisine there, especially at Bamboo,’ Mr. Barnard said. ‘Not only that, but I felt confident that the staff there, and most of the guests, were happy to be there with Aaron and me. We kissed occasionally while enjoying our meal and even complemented the manager and staff on a wonderful job. We only ever experienced discrimination by a few… small-minded individuals outside of the Royal Palms fiasco. Many other locals were very friendly and protective of us both.’

Although it’s not out of the question he would return to the Cayman Islands with Mr. Chandler some day, Mr. Barnard said his initial reaction is that he would not.

‘I refuse to support any company, agency or policy that indoctrinates any form of oppression, heterosexism, elitism, racism or any other such injustice.’

Mr. Barnard said it would be wonderful if something positive came out of the Royal Palms incident, which he understands has been referred to as ‘the kiss heard from around the world’.

‘Not for Aaron, or for me, but for other local and traveling lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people,’ he said.

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