My girlfriend Anne recently took a business trip to South Bend, Ind. While staying at a Hyatt, she decided to use one of the hotelâ€™s public computers in the lobby to check out the offerings of the upcoming gay film festival back here in Seattle.
The computer didnâ€™t cooperate. Was a leprechaun from nearby Notre Dame bouncing on the keypad when she looked away? No such luck.
Sheâ€™s agreed to tell readers about the incident by answering my laser-focused questions.
Leslie: So why didnâ€™t you take me on this trip? Wait, I suspect that isnâ€™t completely relevant. What words did you type into Google on the Hyattâ€™s public computer?
Anne: Three Dollar Bill + Seattle + Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Leslie: Whatâ€™s Three Dollar Bill?
Anne: The name of the organization that puts on the queer film festival. You know the expression, â€śqueer as a three dollar bill.â€ť
Leslie: Intimately. What happened after you typed in those words?
Anne: The â€śSiteCoachâ€ť content filter gave me a pop-up message that read, â€śAccess Denied. SiteCoach thinks this website contains content harmful to a young public. The page was blocked! Reason: Forbidden Keyword Lesbian!â€ť
Leslie: I donâ€™t know which is worse, that lesbian is a forbidden word or this outfitâ€™s need to shriek about it using exclamation points. Did the pop-up say anything else?
Anne: â€śPlease provide us a brief comment, if you believe that this webpage has been blocked wrongly.â€ť
Leslie: Did you provide a comment?
Anne:I told SiteCoach that, â€śI am 50 years old, a lesbian and I am not being harmed.â€ť
Leslie: Considering youâ€™re also menopausal, that was a rather restrained comment. Then what?
Anne: I asked the desk staff at the hotel if they could unblock the site so I could print the film festivalâ€™s schedule. The staff said no one had complained about a site being blocked and that they didnâ€™t know how to assist me.
Leslie: If itâ€™s true youâ€™re the first to complain, you deserve a medal. For heroic carping. Anything else happen?
Anne: The guy on the computer next to me then asked if my â€śpornâ€ť was being blocked. I told him no â€” and that the computer evidently didnâ€™t like the word lesbian. His eyes widened and he said the internet should be free and so should America.
Leslie: A hopeful moment in the heartland?
Anne: I couldnâ€™t tell if he was being sincere or lascivious.
Leslie: Oh. Shame. I canâ€™t believe this contention that any lesbian-related site â€ścontains content harmful to a young public.â€ť What a blanket indictment. In fact, that indictment requires two blankets.
Anne: True. Do you still need me? I have to go hunt and gather (a.k.a. get groceries), because you do eat a lot.
Leslie: Return to the topic, please.
Anne: Okay. Iâ€™ve been back home for a while now, but the whole experience still chaps my hide.
Leslie: Just the idea that in 2008 lesbian is a forbidden keyword. What message does that send? That anything gay is as savory as rotten mackerel.
Anne: Blocking the word lesbian makes me worry about the well-being of young people. When I was coming to terms with my homosexuality in my teens, I would have given anything to be able to Google the word lesbian and know that I wasnâ€™t alone.
Anne: That computer, it wasnâ€™t so much an example of artificial intelligence as artificial ignorance.
Leslie: Good line.Just so you know, I might steal it.
info: LesRobinsn@aol.com . www.GeneralGayety.com