“That’s how I’ve seen countless parents laying with their children. Their child is nestled into them, and they have their hand on their leg or on their hip to hold them close and keep them safe.”
It’s no secret that United Airlines is suffering one major scandal after another — and such an accusation isn’t anything to be taken lightly. As Amador-Batten mentioned, such a position isn’t uncommon for many parents and children, whether it be on flights, car rides, or in a movie. Though women are generally overlooked when nestled with children, it’s interesting that the flight attendant accused a father in this situation. Would the same have been done if Amador-Batten was a woman?
Amador-Batten doesn’t think so: “People have to understand that all families don’t look the same anymore. I think this man had a bit of stereotypical perception of what a father and son would have looked like.”
Though we weren’t on the plane when this occurred, we were very taken aback when we saw this headline, because Henry Amador-Batten had been a writer for The Next Family for many years.
So we reached out to Henry and asked if he wanted to share his side of the story, and he did. Here’s what he had to say:
TNF: Did any flight attendants approach you during the flight to voice their concerns? Or did you notice them acting differently around you? Amador-Batten: The flight attendant in question walked past Ben and I mid flight and gave us an odd glance; it was the kind of glance that most of us walking in the shoes of a minority have a sense about — you know how we notice someone giving us malicious looks as well as loving looks. His felt malicious, it felt off, but I shrugged it off. At the moment of the look, I actually glanced over towards Ben to see if he was okay or if his seat belt was unfastened or something but he was sleeping and all looked well.
Then about 10-15 minutes later, I believe, he came back to me and asked if we were traveling with the people sitting in the row ahead of us, I said no, he said thank you and walked off.
Then, upon landing, the captain came out of the cockpit and told us all on the microphone that there was some sort of situation at the gate and that we’d be allowed to deplane shortly. He then, himself, took a walk back past us, as he looked our way before heading back to the front of the plane.
TNF: What were your first thoughts when you were approached by the police after getting off the flight?
Amador-Batten: The police were right at the plane door. As Ben and I exited the plane door, a crew member stopped the passengers behind us from exiting which made way for the officers to get behind Ben and I. They followed us up the ramp without saying anything except I believe a nod as I glanced back over my shoulder. As soon as we hit the terminal, another officer asked us to follow them over to a side. I did and asked what was up? He said that he was sorry to say that there had been a complaint filed against me on the flight — that my hand had been seen too close to my son’s genitals. That statement will never leave my mind. At first I think I asked him to repeat what he said. I was stunned and confused. He repeated himself and then I started putting all of the dots together.
I was livid and angry and embarrassed and fearful for Ben. I called my husband who was waiting at baggage claim. He was just so upset and felt so helpless. The rest of the hour was spent trying to prove I was Ben’s dad, spent trying to make sure Ben wasn’t getting too scared. I was also trying to keep my cool as to not upset him further. I did, however, have some choice words for the captain as he left and for the crew as they all walked out as if it were just the end of another normal night. I was there in a horrific situation that they created without any real facts or reasons and they were just strolling right along.
TNF: Do you believe you were singled out by the United Airlines crew in this instance for being a father or gay or a just a parent showing affection to your son? Or both? Or for any other reason?
Amador-Batten: I was absolutely singled out by United, I was absolutely discriminated against by United. I cannot speak to what was in that man’s mind or heart; I do not know what his social or religious or core beliefs are nor do I know what biases he holds but what I do know is that I am an openly Gay and Hispanic man, husband and father who was singled out and made to feel like a criminal, accused of one of the worst things a parent can be accused of, molesting your own child.
TNF: What kind of message does accusations like this send to fathers and the LGBT community?
Amador-Batten: It’s sends a dangerous message and a strong reminder that we really do live in a “shoot first and ask second” society. These types of wounds may not be deadly but they have far and long lasting implications when they are aimed at families like ours. Families created out of choice and love are more fragile than others based simply on the laws that protect us or don’t protect us. I’ve heard from hundreds of dads in the past days, Gay and straight alike that have shared that this is their worse nightmare and that if it can happen to me it can happen to them. That’s why they are all asking Joel and I to not let this fade away, to fight it.
TNF: Why do you think United’s apology was “empty and hollow”?
Amador-Batten: So it was obvious from “hello” that this United representative that called us was in a place to make these calls. Her job was to endear us and make this go away. She literally asked us to please keep this low key for her as United has had such bad press lately and that she actually wanted to keep her job.
I asked her how she expected us to keep an accusation as despicable as United’s “low key?”
That to me is an empty apology.
TNF: How is your son and family doing now? What challenges are you now facing in your family from this experience?
Amador-Batten: We’re not doing too well; no one is sleeping to well. Ben still refuses to sleep in his own room and just wants to be with his daddies. We’re just listening to him and keeping him close. We don’t want to ask him questions in fear that we might be planting thoughts that he’s not having so we’re just loving him and being very present. Joel and I are just so sad and tired. It feels as though we are wearing this accusation on our foreheads. I keep thinking that people in our community will only read the headline and not go further to see that it’s not true. We feel extremely vulnerable and unsafe. Of course, the mean and hateful messages are starting to pour in and that’s not helping.
TNF: What are your plans for moving forward?
Amador-Batten: Well, we’re hoping this will be settled in one way or another soon. We know that we cannot back down nor let United get away with this. We’re following our attorney’s recommendations as to how we make that happen. We’ll take it as far as we have to.
TNF: What positive outcomes do you hope to gain by going through with a lawsuit?
Amador-Batten: This is a hard question. Right now we just want to feel whole again. We know that we can’t not seek justice for our family and we know that we don’t want another innocent parent and child to ever experience what we are going through. We hope this lawsuit will start newer deeper conversations about fatherhood and about the inequalities that we face on a daily basis. Maybe we’ll change a heart or two along the way.
For more, check out this news clip or follow Henry Amador-Batten and his family on social media (provided below):