Holding Hands as a Gay Couple
I disappointed myself.
When we were in Portugal, we spent the day at a water park. While we were walking around to get to the slides, Scott held my hand and I felt weirdly uncomfortable and let go.
It wasn’t because I’m adverse to affection (we’re normally Velcro’d together) and it wasn’t because I was grumping with him. It was because I didn’t want people to stare at us and all the attention that came with it.
In July 2018, the UK government released the LGBT+ Poll results.
It stated that "more than two thirds of LGBT respondents said they avoid holding hands with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction". It’s disappointing because holding your partners hand should be about love and support, not about anxiety and worry over simple things like displaying affection.
I hadn’t looked into the “gay culture” in Portugal so I didn’t know how “taboo” it was (it’s very progressive in LGBT rights btw), but I felt cautious. We had been there for hours and I hadn’t seen a single gay couple holding hands through the thousands of people. Maybe seeing other LGBT+ couples would have instilled some kind of “solidarity” in me and given me the confidence that it was OK? And maybe it would have been a subconscious feeling of having backup if things went south? (despite being surrounded by my fiercely protective family).
My anxiety probably played a huge part, to be honest.
Wherever we go, I have that pause of thought before showing public affection and it’s perfectly valid because we do get stares. A lot of stares.
Each stare ignites my anxiety and I start to think about everything that *could* happen next, the reasons why they were staring and I overthink the fact that I should be able to hold his hand without a second thought. It makes me sad.
It fucking sucks that we have to even think about it.
For all the straight people reading, imagine walking down the street and feeling like you wanted to hold your partners hand but had to think about the possibility of:
- derogatory comments towards you both
- constant stares and whispers
- potential violence towards you both
It’s easy to say “just do it” and “pave the way” but it’s terrifying to make yourself vulnerable like that. I’d like to think that I’d put up a fight and stand my ground if we did have any hassle but I don’t like conflict. I’m more flight than fight (some might be shocked lol) but it took me years to come to terms with my own sexuality, I don't want to have to fight over it every time I'm walking down the street.
We count ourselves “lucky” that we’ve only had two homophobic comments made towards us - both of which were at home in Aberdeen. Most LGBT+ couples don't report instances of abuse and harassment because they think "it happens all the time" [source].
When we’ve spoken to straight couples about our travel plans around Africa and Asia, they’ve always mentioned us not holding hands or not kissing in public. It’s perfectly OK to worry about it because every country is different and the last thing our family want, is for us to face any prejudice. The reality is, that we have faced prejudice and probably always will.
We need to build accepting communities that make everyone feel safe. Supporting LGBT+ couples, local pride parades and having Straight Allies will all help.
Normalizing LGBT+ behaviour, will help it eventually become normal too. Next time you see an LGBT+ couple in public, don’t stare, point or whisper - we pick up on it.
“If you wouldn’t do it to a straight couple, don’t do it to a gay couple”.