A yellow taxi driver is under investigation after he allegedly told a passenger, “I don’t drive gays” earlier this week, the Taxi and Limousine Commission said Thursday.
After leaving a bartending shift late Tuesday night, 29-year-old Ryan Smith and a friend got into a taxi in midtown, heading home to Brooklyn. But shortly into the ride, the driver asked Smith if he was gay. He and his friend, Chanel Carroll, thought they must have misheard him, but then he repeated the question, “Are you a gay man?,” Smith recounted in a Facebook post Wednesday.
Smith, a singer/songwriter, and Carroll, an actress, had been having a work-related discussion when he was reminded of a strange outfit he saw someone wearing on the subway, he told amNewYork. He told Carroll about the outfit, which involved pants and a skirt, and then they continued talking about something else.
“It was shortly after the fashion faux pas conversation that he asked me,” Smith said. “Contextually we weren’t talking about anything queer in nature.”
When Smith told the driver, “Yes. I am,” the man replied, “I don’t drive gays,” Smith said.
“I froze up in shock,” Smith said, but he added that his priority was to get out of the car as quickly as possible. He had been in a similar situation about five years before — in that case the cabdriver swerved to the side of the road on the Queensboro Bridge. “I was with another gay guy at that time and he started to get into it with the cabbie,” Smith said.
He didn’t want to repeat that, and Carroll quickly responded to the driver by telling him to pull over so they could get out. She also took a picture of the driver’s medallion, which allowed them to report him to the TLC the next day.
TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg confirmed that the driver is under investigation. “This driver’s behavior, as described, was totally egregious and unacceptable,” Fromberg wrote in a comment on Smith’s Facebook post.
Since making his story public, Smith said other people have reached out to him with similar stories.
“It does happen more frequently than people realize,” he said. “People have had it much worse than my experience.”
Just days before, an Uber driver in the city had his license suspended after a lesbian couple said he kicked them out because they kissed in his car.