My girlfriend Anne recently took a business trip to South Bend, Ind. While staying at a Hyatt, she decided to use one of the hotel’s public computers in the lobby to check out the offerings of the upcoming gay film festival back here in Seattle.

The computer didn’t cooperate. Was a leprechaun from nearby Notre Dame bouncing on the keypad when she looked away? No such luck.

She’s agreed to tell readers about the incident by answering my laser-focused questions.

Leslie: So why didn’t you take me on this trip? Wait, I suspect that isn’t completely relevant. What words did you type into Google on the Hyatt’s public computer?

Anne: Three Dollar Bill + Seattle + Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Leslie: What’s Three Dollar Bill?

Anne: The name of the organization that puts on the queer film festival. You know the expression, “queer as a three dollar bill.”

Leslie: Intimately. What happened after you typed in those words?

Anne: The “SiteCoach” content filter gave me a pop-up message that read, “Access Denied. SiteCoach thinks this website contains content harmful to a young public. The page was blocked! Reason: Forbidden Keyword Lesbian!”

Leslie: I don’t know which is worse, that lesbian is a forbidden word or this outfit’s need to shriek about it using exclamation points. Did the pop-up say anything else?

Anne: “Please provide us a brief comment, if you believe that this webpage has been blocked wrongly.”
Leslie: Did you provide a comment?

Anne:I told SiteCoach that, “I am 50 years old, a lesbian and I am not being harmed.”

Leslie: Considering you’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 festival’s schedule. The staff said no one had complained about a site being blocked and that they didn’t know how to assist me.

Leslie: If it’s true you’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 “porn” was being blocked. I told him no — and that the computer evidently didn’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 couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or lascivious.

Leslie: Oh. Shame. I can’t believe this contention that any lesbian-related site “contains content harmful to a young public.” 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. I’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 wasn’t alone.

Leslie: Amen.

Anne: That computer, it wasn’t so much an example of artificial intelligence as artificial ignorance.
Leslie: Good line.Just so you know, I might steal it.

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