(STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX (OutSmart Magazine) — A Houston-based photographer says a client waged a hateful campaign against her business after learning she was gay, attacking her personally and leaving negative reviews on social media sites.
Alicia Verdier, who owns Alicia Verdier Photography, said she had agreed to photograph a birthday party for the client’s 5-year-old daughter. That’s when the client went on Verdier’s personal Facebook page and noticed an LGBTQ Pride flag filter on her profile picture .
“Are you gay? Do you do photos for gay people?” the client wrote in a message to Verdier last month, according to screengrabs of the conversation posted on Facebook by Verdier.
Verdier told OutSmart she considered publicly identifying the client, but chose not to do so because she is trying to be a model for her kids.
“I didn’t want to behave in any way similar to her,” Verdier said. “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. And I didn’t feel like reacting in that way, by naming her, would do anything to change her mind.”
In a column published by Equality Texas this week, Verdier said her first thought was that the client might be part of the LGBTQ community, and was merely seeking some reassurance.
“My second thought, though, was that things were about to get very unpleasant.” And they did.
“To answer your question, yes, I am gay. It’s not something I hide,” Verdier responded to the client. “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 responded by saying she was “disappointed to hear that.”
“I don’t want someone who is gay taking my daughter’s photos,” the client wrote. “I believe it goes against God and is unatural (SIC).”
“I hate how the gays are always trying to push your agenda on the rest of the country,” the client added. “The next thing you know, they’ll be telling everyone that being attracted to children is natural and the way some people are born. … I want everyone to know what kind of awful things you stand for, and I will be sure to let everyone know! 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.”
Verdier responded by saying, “OK, I am all done with you now.”
“Please take your closed-minded hatred somewhere else,” Verdier wrote. “I would appreciate it if you would just leave me alone.”
But the client persisted.
“You lifestyle is unacceptable,” she wrote. “May God have mercy on your soul. I will pray for you.”
According to Verdier, the client then “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 said. “I had the fake reviews removed, but it was still hard not to take them personally.”
On the Facebook page for her business, Verdier addressed the incident by clarifying that she works “with people from all walks of life, without hesitation,” and doesn’t discriminate against any group.
“If you have a problem with any of that, then I am not the right photographer for you,” she wrote.
Verdier said she lost a number of Facebook followers over the post, but felt it was important an important statement. At one point, she feared the incident might prevent her from being a successful photographer in Texas.
“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. But reading her words, I didn’t feel proud; I felt a little broken,” Verdier wrote. “That’s why I am so grateful for the people who continued to stand by me and endorse my photography. Their support for my business overwhelmed me with hope for the future of the LGBTQ community.”