That is the question. Recently a friend and I were discussing gays kissing in public. Or indeed, showing any kind of affection in public.
When I posed this question on Facebook, a couple of friends were indignant. ‘It’s not an issue,’ they said. ‘It only becomes an issue when you make out it’s an issue.’
‘It’s certainly an issue for someone if they get a fist in their face,’ I said, referring to the time two friends of mine were attacked for kissing in public. That was just two years ago.
Let’s not also forget the number of times the gay press has reported on gay couples being chucked out of straight bars and pubs for kissing. How often does that happen to straight couples?
So let’s not pretend it’s not an issue. Of course it’s an issue. And yes, my drawing attention to the problem might make it more of an issue, in the opinion of some, but unless we scream and shout about these things, they won’t ever change.
The reasons why PDAs by the gays are a problem is perhaps pretty obvious.
As one straight friend confided, ‘I’m not homophobic, but I probably would be uncomfortable.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Only because it’s something I’m not used to seeing, so it would shock me. Not in a bad way,’ she blushed, ‘but just because I wouldn’t be expecting it.’
But how will she ever get used to it if we’re too afraid to show it?
‘I’m not afraid,’ said another friend. ‘I just don’t like to rub it in other people’s noses.’
Which is also a fair, if pandering, point. Why should I appease straight people when they don’t appease me? They come in our bars and clutch fiercely to their girlfriends like some kind of anti-homo shield.
Case in point: I was on the train today. For about half an hour, I saw a couple locking lips. At one point saliva ran down the girl’s chin. They were giggling. Theirs was a little over the top action. They were in love and very, very happy. A couple of people looked (rather plainly) and said nothing. No one made an issue.
It might come as no surprise that they were straight.
That level of affection would probably cross the line from PDA to OTT whether someone was gay or straight, but not one person said anything. Not one. There wasn’t even a tut.
Let’s look at the queer experience. About a month ago, I was walking through town with two male friends who are dating. One of them took the other one’s hand, and in no time, a group of boys muttered ‘Poofs!’ under their breath as they passed us by. My friends were embarrassed and stopped holding hands. I felt sorry for them. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to show their love? They weren’t hurting anyone. They weren’t even kissing. It’s surely not about prudishness. How much time did we spend gawking over William and Kate on their wedding day?
I’ve been out in public with boys before and there’s always been this kind of debilitating reluctance to show any kind of affection in public. You’ll maybe get away with a brief peck on the cheek or a fleeting touch of the hand. But that’s it. Most guys seem utterly scared of any kind of queer affection in public. And perhaps understandably, because the reaction isn’t always welcoming.
So perhaps we don’t just need to hold hands and kiss in public for the straight people. Perhaps we also need to do it for ourselves. Can it be that years of being told homosexuality isn’t normal, we’re secretly ashamed of being open about our own sexuality in public? We need to overcome our fears and show straight people that we’re normal, and that we can and do fall in love.
I’m with those queer protesters who staged a kiss-in outside the pub that threw out a gay couple for kissing. Let’s stand up for ourselves. That’s what real men do, isn’t it?
Yes, I get the argument that affection of any kind is distasteful. But while a granny might tut disapprovingly at a pair of straight teens in the throes of puppy love, it’s far more likely you’ll see a much stronger, and occasionally more violent, response to any hint of queer love.
But we are queer. And we do love. Just like anybody else. And if they can show it, why can’t we? Either everyone should feel free to kiss in public, or no one should, straight or gay.
Come on, darling. Pucker up!