Going public: I wanna hold your hand
“I just saw two girls holding hands and kissing on Henry St!,” I gasped to my lesbian pal. “And?,” my friend replied nonchalantly.
This led us into a conversation regarding public displays of affection between lesbian and gay couples in Dublin.
We’re both out and proud, but I wasn’t sure whether she had ever held hands with a girl whilst strolling around the city centre. As it turned out, she “did, does and always will. If someone is really out and proud then what’s their problem?” And so, being a lesbian who doesn’t usually feel comfortable enough to walk around in public holding a girls hand, her characteristically blunt response got me thinking:
Am I really as “out and proud” as I claim to be?
To PDA or not to PDA ..?
From speaking to other young gay people, thankfully (or not thankfully – whichever way you look at it) I have learned that I am not the only person who feels uncomfortable engaging in a PDA with a partner. However, while some of these responses consisted of a blanket “No”, others said that it depended on the situation or area that they happened to be walking in at the time – or how much alcohol they had consumed!
South Great George’s Street in particular proved to be the section of town where most of the people I spoke to had already displayed some affection towards a partner. However, considering that two of our biggest nightclubs are situated on this street, and that George’s Street is pretty much considered a friendly area from the LGBT community’s perspective (Gay Charlie’s anyone?), does this really count?
When asked why they felt uncomfortable about being publicly affectionate towards their girlfriend/boyfriend in particular areas or when sober, they expressed concern over their safety, and the concern of not wanting to draw any “negative attention”.
Despite my friend’s seemingly black and white opinion, aren’t these concerns valid ones? Is someone really guilty of being ashamed of their sexual orientation because they feel it’s prudent to not show some love with a partner in an area that they feel unsafe? Or should they be battling against the fear and discomfort that they feel and refuse to hide whomever they love? Can things ever change in our cities if we don’t fight homophobia by defiantly and unashamedly revealing ourselves in public?
Do the ‘phobes prefer a little girl-on-girl action?
I can’t help but notice that on the rare occasions that I have spotted a gay couple engaging in a PDA, they have been female. Feel free to correct me if you believe I am wrong, but personally I believe that this is because affection between women is seen as more acceptable by the general public than between two gay men.
Perhaps this is down to the whole phenomena of the ‘bisexual’ within pop culture. Whether it’s Katy Perry singing about kissing a girl and liking it, Madonna wearing the face off Britney on an MTV awards show or Jesse J coming out as bisexual, people are becoming familiar with either hearing about or witnessing two women kiss, not to mention the fact that the majority of straight men are more than pleased to view such a site.
Undoubtedly, both lesbian women and gay men displaying are at risk of being subjected to homophobic abuse or comments if they are opening affectionate; but I still feel that two gay men walking down Henry Street, their hands entwined, are a more likely target for such blatant homophobia (in particular physical abuse), than to two lesbians who do the same. Perhaps this is why, after many years of walking around town, I can’t remember (apart from one or two vague memories) having seen two men being openly affectionate towards one another.
Besos y más besos: An international perspective
After speaking to a female Spanish friend of mine (who happens to be straight) about this particular topic, she was surprised to hear that PDAs between same-sex couples are not a common occurrence in Dublin. I was to be as equally surprised when she then informed me that couples expressing PDAs in her hometown of Madrid was as common and as frequent as the rain here in Ireland!
“Nobody cares,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not a big deal.”
Although I have been witnessing PDAs between lesbian couples in particular much more frequently, there is still a way to go if we are to be as liberal as Spain’s capital city. Meanwhile, I’ve decided that the next time I find myself browsing on Henry Street with a girl I’m seeing, I will take one big deep breath and (Beatles-style), tell her: “I wanna hold your hand…”