A Kennesaw pizzeria came under fire from an LGBT non-profit on Friday for posting a joke it called anti-trans, though the business owner who shared the graphic meme on social media says there was no malicious intent behind it.
On Thursday, Jammin Pie owner David DeSantis (photo) shared this on the business's Facebook page as a way to take a shot at frozen pizza:
A day later, the Atlanta-based Health Initiative – which works on LGBT health issues – put the pizzeria on blast in a Facebook post, calling the image "disparaging" and asking supporters to call Jammin Pizza to air their disgust with it.
TAKE ACTION: This type of disparaging language and attitude contributes to the poor treatment trans & gender-nonconforming individuals receive on a daily basis, ranging from employment & healthcare scenarios to simply feeling safe in public spaces. Please call The Jammin Pie in Kennesaw at 770-792-8989 and let them know exactly how you feel about this post. #DeliverThis #HateIsNotATopping
DeSantis quickly fired back that the image was meant as a joke. From there, the Facebook conversation devolved into lengthy back-and-forth between LGBT people shouting at the business and supporters of DeSantis yelling back to defend him.
James Sheffield, HI's organizational development director, says the pizza post mocks a class of people and feeds into the misguided notion that trans people are attempting to trick others with their identity. Representatives from the Health Initiative didn't talk with Jammin Pizza before the organization's post on Friday.
"Social media is a function of marketing for businesses and it's up to the business to think through statements before posting," Sheffield writes in a Facebook comment. "At minimum, there should have been consideration given to the fact that the post was making fun of one specific demographic. It should have been enough to give pause, without a phone call from anyone."
DeSantis stood behind the image in a Facebook response to HI's criticism.
This is a classic example of someone who needs to get a sense of humor... To say that I don't support freedom for gays, trannies, heteros, homos, martians, plutonians, and even for politicians is absolutely absurd... But I do have a sense of humor and this is funny... This is the example of what I mean when I say that I am non PC... Get a clue and know who to hate dumba$$... is calling you a narrow minded idiot who tangled with the wrong business hate? maybe all my customer should take action and point out that you don't know what the crap you are talking about... -TJP DemonDave
In an interview with Project Q Atlanta, DeSantis says the personal attacks aimed at him and the business are misguided.
"I don't ever mean to be offensive to anybody," DeSantis says. "That would be a stupid thing to be in business. They are attacking me like I am a conservative Republican. But I am liberal. I believe in freedom for anyone."
"It is a joke that doesn't have a malicious intent," he adds. "I am not even making fun of anyone. I think the joke is funny and I am going to stand by it. I don't mean it negatively towards someone else."
Sheffield says the group isn't calling for LGBT people to boycott the business, but to instead voice their opinion about the graphic meme. The group wants to show that too often, transgender people become the butt of jokes that overlook the economic and health struggles they face on a daily basis, he says.
"We get calls from trans individuals, almost daily, that can't get work, can't find shelter, and have no access to healthcare. These basic life necessities become very difficult for the trans community to access, in part, because trans people are made out this way, as sketchy individuals lurking in darkness, waiting to 'trick' everyone," Sheffield, who is transgender, tells Project Q Atlanta. "We become the joke with such ease that we are completely dehumanized and then our needs don't become a priority or even a consideration for mainstream populations. These micro-aggressions that are put on public display feed the problem, so it felt important to speak out against it just as publicly."
DeSantis says he's a freedom-loving, LGBT-loving business owner who welcomes all to his eatery on Wade Green Road – including his gay fraternity brothers, LGBT friends and his nephew and boyfriend. In June, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, DeSantis changed his Facebook icon to a photo of he and his wife with a rainbow filter to celebrate the decision.
And – unlike a certain bakery owner in Colorado or print shop owner in metro Atlanta – DeSantis wants LGBT business. And he stands ready to bake a special wedding pie for LGBT couples getting married.
"Not only would I make it, I have the pizza truck out back. I would bring the pizza truck to the wedding and have a big party. I am here to make a pizza for the world," DeSantis says.
UPDATE | DeSantis offered an apology early Saturday.
So here we go... walk a mile in another man's shoes... did it all night last night, stiletto pumps are a bitch btw... i am a kind good man that likes to laugh with everyone at my shop and I guess as of yesterday the only time in the future I use the word tranny, it will be in reference to automatic or manual and if you were offended i truly apologize as this comparison of the T word to the N word has shed new light on my personal understanding of your feelings... the problem that I have is the reverse hate and how quickly people want to tie a person to a stake and toss a match. I also think The Health Initiative is full of sh!t nazi crap... your a propaganda machine at best as a responsible organization truly missions with education would have at least called me and educated me before trying to end the lively hood of a good man with great kids and a kind hearted blessing of a wife and a store full of staff of all races sexual orientations religious beliefs but with a common denomination of being good hardworking people... your post was a shot at trying to gain viral attention and unscrupulous in nature... Coexist is what TJP has always done and with action not words... our menu is Halal friendly, our support of children and local causes has stretched me to the point of personal poverty believe it or not, but I continue to give and know in the end God will provide a penitent man...
Our sales were higher than ever last night so I am not saying this out of need... in my conservative area this post might actually hurt me... but non the less here it is, from the heart, as always. Nothing I do is driven by the dollar and I always put myself last... My poor wife had her honeymoon and promised first anniversary vacations both donated to charity because we felt causes outweighed our need for a trip... We live our support everyday... Before you throw your stone now... it's time for YOU to walk in my shoes and if you can't back up your verbal venom with actions, then you are a hypocrite and your mission is not education or the promotion of human good will... your on a witch hunt and have negated your validity as a person trying to forge a postive future and you bring shame to your cause... TJP DemonDave