The gay owner of a B&B in Canada has revealed how he helped educate a young man who’d left him homophobic voicemail messages.
Jim Culbert, 69, has run the Green Gay Bulls bed and breakfast in Vernon Bridge, Prince Edward Island, on the eastern edge of Canada, for the past eight years.
Prior to this, he ran the nearby Rainbow Lodge, the region’s first openly gay-friendly guesthouse. One of its exterior walls had a large rainbow flag painted across it, making it probably the first business in the area to display the flag.
Culbert moved to the area in 1988 (he’s originally from Bradford, Ontario), first opening up Blair Hall Guest Home. He later sold that and opened up Rainbow Lodge in 1998 and then moved to Green Gay Bulls in 2013.
In an interview with The Guardian, he recalled experiencing a variety of homophobic abuse over the years, including hate mail, nasty phone calls, people throwing things at his house or yelling slurs as they slowly drove past in their cars.
One incident in particular sticks in his memory. Around 20 years he received a string of homophobic phone calls from a group of teenagers. He contacted the police, who managed to trace the calls to the home of the parents of one of the teens.
After the police got involved, Culbert says he received a letter of apology from the 15-year-old boy. However, Culbert thought more could be done to educate the youngster. He contacted the boy’s parents and invited the family to meet with Culbert and some of his friends. That meeting took place on a Thanksgiving Monday at Culbert’s home.
“I wanted him to see that we weren’t people with horns. He went away; I went away and I think his parents went away feeling better.”
Culbert then offered the boy work mowing his lawns, which the youngster accepted.
That boy is now grown up. He married a woman and has two kids of his own. He agreed to be interviewed by the newspaper on the condition of anonymity. He said there are no excuses for what he did when he was younger.
“Looking back on it now, it’s embarrassing that it even happened. We thought we were being funny and weren’t thinking about the fact that somebody is going to pick up these voicemails and listen to these hurtful things that are said.”
He said he had not given a thought to how the person on the receiving end of the phonecalls might react to them, or if they were having a hard time from others because of their sexuality.
“People use words without thinking about what they really mean and I think that was a lot of it.”
He went on to say he’d let his parents down and would be horrified if any of his kids did the same thing.
“My parents were pretty disappointed in me … and, if it were my kids in that situation, I would be very, very disappointed.”
Besides flying the rainbow flag, Culbert has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights in other ways – founding the P.E.I gay tourism association, which ran for ten years, and giving local talks on the importance of equality. He’s widely acknowledged for helping to make a difference in the area.
Today, he would have been celebrating his 32nd year of running a B&B but has closed his business because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes to reopen soon.
“We have opted to remain closed this year due to COVID, but we are hopeful that next year we will be as busy as ever,” he said in a message to GayCities. “Thankfully, I also run an Upholstery & Refinishing business on the property that has allowed me to maintain a bit of an income.”
Once he reopens, he’d love to welcome visitors to the area. His guesthouse is in a building that was originally a United Church manse built in 1896.
“On the front door of Green Gay Bulls B&B, we have a plaque that states ‘There are no strangers here, only friends we have yet to meet.’ That is a motto we live by here. You are not ‘just’ a guest to us, you are a friend.”