THE owner of a Cairns café has spoken out about losing customers because he and his staff are gay.

Jay Horne of Paradiso café said an older couple who were once loyal regulars had told him they would no longer patronise a “gay-owned business”.

Horne, a prominent figure in the Cairns LGBTI community, said he was shaken by the homophobia and the situation was “very difficult to comprehend”.

“They still walk past every single day but refuse to acknowledge us,” he said. “As the owner of a café I’ve never experienced anything like this.

“To voice the fact that we’re gay owned and operated as being their reason is so hard to understand.

“The only thing I could really think was, okay, maybe these people think that we have a disease or a virus that they were going to contract through our café, or that they believed if we touched them they would end up gay.”

Horne said that while the business is gay owned and operated, the staff are not “overt” about their sexuality. “We don’t even have a rainbow flag,” he said.

The café hasn’t been impacted other than losing the two regulars, but Horne is disappointed that the gay community is still facing discrimination.

“It’s business as usual, but it’s not about that,” he said. “I wanted to let people know that these things do exist.”

Horne said fighting homophobia is important given Cairns has high rates of HIV and youth suicide, often related to a fear of not being accepted in the community as gay.

“I would have been happier if they said they don’t like bagels or they don’t like the service [rather than making it about sexuality],” he said.

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