WARNING: This story contains some graphic language that some readers may find offensive.
EDMONTON – A young Edmonton man who received a homophobic Valentine’s card says he simply wants answers as to why someone would send something so hateful.
Degas Sikorski, 20, has worked at Party City in Edmonton’s northside for three years. Degas is gay, having come out at the age of 14, and said he’s never had any issues with staff or management at the store over his sexual orientation.
But on Saturday, Degas went to the store for his first shift in about six weeks. As his shift was wrapping up, Degas went to the break room, where a supervisor had set up Valentine’s cards for all the employees.
But the message written on his Valentine’s card left him in shock.
“In the centre, below my name, was the word ‘faggot’ and right under it was ‘there’s a reason you’re not getting any shifts’ right below the word ‘faggot’,” Degas said.
“My jaw hit the floor. [I thought] Oh my God, I’m not safe here.”
Degas said he has always found the store to be accepting and welcoming of his identity but the incident has changed the way he sees his workplace.
“Suddenly I can’t be myself. Suddenly I can’t accept myself and be who I am at Party City for fear of retaliation from somebody in the staff,” he said.
Degas said he has been called the slur before on the bus or at Pride Parade, but he said this incident left him feeling exposed.
“This was the first time where I felt threatened. I wasn’t able to defend myself and I felt really vulnerable then,” he said.
“It was a shock to my whole world.”
His mother, Shelley Sikorski, held back tears as she spoke to Global News about the incident on Sunday. She posted about it on social media Saturday night.
“It’s very upsetting. I think that’s where my outrage came from. There’s no reason for it. This is somebody that doesn’t know Degas,” she said.
Shelley said the family hasn’t yet thought about litigation or filing a human rights complaint but they are considering speaking with the police about the incident.
Shelley calls her son ‘amazing’. Julia Wong/Global News
Shelley calls her son ‘amazing’.
Julia Wong/Global News
She has some choice words for the person who is responsible for the homophobic message.
“You don’t know Degas. Who are you? Who are you to judge someone?” she said.
Global News tried to speak with the manager of the party favour store but was told staff are not able to provide any interviews.
We received the following statement from Party City:
“Party City does not condone this behaviour and is committed to creating a fair and inclusive working environment. We are currently looking into this matter and will provide more information as it becomes available.”
However, the company did not respond further when asked whether the company will be taking any action against the employee responsible, whether there will be any sensitivity or LGBTQ training or whether steps will be taken to ensure the store and the company are safe for those in the LGBTQ community.
Degas said Tuesday he has accepted a job with another company. He previously explained he was disappointed by how Party City handled the situation.
He said there needs to be more training about LGBTQ issues in the workplace.
“This is definitely a matter of safety, not only for other people employed at Party City, but also for anybody who goes to shop at Party City,” he said.
Degas is not calling for the person responsible to be fired, but said he does want an explanation.
“I’m still a person. I breathe the same air as you. I’m a human being just like you,” he said.
“What I want is a confession and I want a reason and an apology. If Party City wants to terminate them, then Party City terminates them. I’m not looking for blood. I just want a heart-to-heart, why? Why did you do this?”
Degas said he hopes the incident does not discourage young members of the LGBTQ community to come forward.
“You get stronger. You get smarter. You get wiser. You [will] be able to handle what life throws at you and you’ll be able to speak back,” he said.