A gay photographer in Houston was the victim of a one-woman hate campaign after a customer discovered she was a lesbian. When Alicia Verdier agreed to photograph a 5-year-old’s birthday party, the child’s mother went on Verdier’s personal Facebook page and saw she had used the rainbow flag filter on her profile picture.
“Are you gay?” the client messaged Verdier in July. “Do you do photos for gay people?”
In an essay posted on the Equality Texas website, Verdier said her first thought was that the woman was part of the LGBTQ community. “My second thought, though, was that things were about to get very unpleasant.”
She took a gamble and answered honestly.
“To answer your question, yes, I am gay. It’s not something I hide,” she replied. “And yes, I am happy to say that I have done photos for a number of gay and lesbian couples in the Houston area. I know there are some photographers around here who discriminate, so I am especially happy to photograph LGBTQ+ people. I hope that won’t be a problem for you.”
The client quickly replied she was “disappointed to hear that.”
“I don’t want someone who is gay taking my daughter’s photos. I believe it goes against God and is unatural [sic],” she said, adding that the gay photographer had “no business photographing babies and innocent children.”
“Don’t you know Texas is a Christian state? Why did you even think it would be okay to bring your kind of lifestyle here? Stay away from our good Christian families and our kids! You homos are trying to ruin this country. I wish we could go back to the days when men loved women and families were pure.”
After that diatribe, Verdier simply replied that she was “done with you now.”
“Please take your closed-minded hatred somewhere else. I would appreciate it if you would just leave me alone.” But despite that admonishment, Verdier says, the woman “continued her hateful campaign for a number of days.”
“She posted negative reviews on a couple of online platforms, ‘warning’ everyone about my sexual orientation — like it had some bearing on my abilities as a photographer,” Verdier added. “I had the fake reviews removed, but it was still hard not to take them personally.”
Yelp and other review platforms have become a battleground over LGBT rights. Businesses that reject LGBT customers often get slammed, but a café in Dorchester, Massachusetts, got a one-star Yelp review from someone offended the owner hung a rainbow flag in the window.
Verdier ultimately decided not to publicly identify the client who harassed her.
“She named me all over the place to try to destroy my reputation, and turning around and doing something similar didn’t feel like the right response,” Verdier told OutSmart. “And I didn’t feel like reacting in that way, by naming her, would do anything to change her mind.”
She’s lost some Facebook followers — and may lose some business — but Verdier believes there’s a bigger issue at stake.
“I live every day trying to model pride for my children, because I want them to always know that they should love themselves and others, as they are.”