Lawsuit: Shirtless Homophobic Manager Hurled Slurs, Threatened Gay Customer

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 21, 2022

Trevor Anderson, right, with his partner, Jonathan Pereira
Trevor Anderson, right, with his partner, Jonathan Pereira  (Source:Fairness West Virginia)

A lawsuit claims the plaintiff (an out gay man) in a lawsuit suffers crippling anxiety after a West Virginia costume shop manager hurled a homophobic slur, chased him outside, tore off his shirt in a rage, and threatened him, LGBTQ+ advocacy group Fairness West Virginia reported.

Fairness West Virginia filed the suit on behalf of Trevor Anderson, according to the Daily Beast. The suit alleges that Anderson was chased out of Spirit Halloween costume shop last October by manager Thelmon Penn.

Penn's homophobic outburst purportedly erupted when Anderson attempted to return some items he had purchased the previous day for a costume he intended to wear to a Halloween party. Anderson explained that the items he was returning were too small, at which point Penn, with "veins pulsing in his face," told Anderson, "Maybe you just shouldn't be trying on women's clothing," the Daily Beast recounted.

When Anderson demanded the manager's name and contact details, Penn allegedly responded: "I'm not giving my number to a faggot." Then, the Daily Beast article said, "Penn began to chase him out of the store, screaming: 'Get out, get out, f***ing faggot.'"

Anderson fled to a nearby Department of Motor Vehicles and phoned his partner, Jonathan Pereira, who had been in the store with him. Meanwhile, a crowd of curious onlookers had gathered in the parking lot of Spirit Halloween. Things got even more surreal when Anderson returned to his parked car to meet with Pereira. Penn, now shirtless, was still outside the shop and, seeing Anderson, "began charging at him across the parking lot," the Daily Beast detailed.

"In the hollow I grew up in, if somebody's angry, they rip their shirt off," Anderson explained. "That's rage."

Anderson says the store manager began pounding on the men's car and screaming threats as they were trying to drive away, terrifying both Anderson and Pereira.

The suit seeks damages for emotional distress. Anderson described how he "cries every single day" and Pereira "has discussed leaving him and moving back to Virginia because he can't deal with Anderson's overwhelming trauma."

"Since that day, I've been looking over my shoulder," Fairness West Virginia quoted Anderson as saying. "There have been times where I didn't even want to run errands or go out in public — to work, even — because the anxiety of leaving the safety of my house is too much to handle."

Although West Virginia lacks basic protections specifically for LGBTQ+ people, Fairness West Virginia contends that the "state's human rights act protects people from sex-based discrimination," and that protection applies in this case because "the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case that sex-based nondiscrimination protections include protections for LGBTQ people."

Attorney Ben Salango said that "Spirit Halloween corporate headquarters is well aware of this incident," but that the company had not apologized to Anderson.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.