An open letter to Uber's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, to investigate driver homophobia

20 October 2019

Dear Dara,

At the end of a long day of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dawn of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement at Zurich Pride, my boyfriend and I ordered an Uber to go to a nearby gay bar.

I didn’t think anything of it when the first driver cancelled our ride after accepting it. Nor the second or third. But by the sixth I started to wonder if it was because the destination was a gay bar. So on the seventh attempt I changed the destination to the short street the bar is on. And lo, the seventh driver accepted our ride, duly arrived, and dropped us off at our destination.

Obviously it’s not possible to prove anything from this, but it’s pretty compelling circumstantial evidence that should trigger further investigation. That’s why, when I contacted Uber, I didn’t care for a refund but I asked that the sea of ride data be put to good use to look for signs of homophobia by drivers. During Pride Month where Uber was proudly flying the rainbow colours everywhere you could, I hoped it may be able to show some meaningful support to the LGBTQ+ community, rather than just a website and a float at Pride.

My hopes were dashed though, and after much chasing and discussion via your support channels I didn’t get anywhere—save for the refund that I couldn’t care less about—I gave up for a bit as I’d run out of energy. When I recently saw an article on NBC about a study that identified the same issues I contacted Uber again. Since then, once more, I’ve got nowhere. A few empty statements about it being looked into, but nothing more than canned responses. Never in the many communications has anyone even acknowledged my initial request to do a systematic review, which I repeated many times.

I’m writing to you in desperation in the hope of finally being able to get a commitment from Uber to both perform an investigation into systematic homophobia, and put processes in place to identify it on an ongoing basis.

That same night a friend of mine on his way home from Zurich Pride was beaten up by a gang of thugs shouting homophobic abuse. Although a few Uber drivers cancelling a ride may not seem like much, I firmly believe that every small act of homophobia legitimises others and must be fought.

I will be in San Francisco in a couple of weeks and would love to meet to discuss this in person so you can hear first-hand how this has affected me.

Yours sincerely,

Tom McAdam

Photo credit: Praveen on flickr

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