Hold My Hand

I’ve been thinking about couples who hold hands in public the last few days.

My girlfriend and I met a man for the first time this weekend and this topic came up in conversation. He told us that he & his boyfriend of seven years rarely hold hands in public because they feel that it’s not safe for them to do so. He said that one of the rare nights that they did hold hands in public, a man driving by slowed down in the road solely to yell homophobic slurs out the window at them. Luckily this guy didn’t get out of the car to approach them. He said that every time they hold hands in public it feels like a statement to the world instead of just a simple, personal display of affection.

I’ve heard stories like his so many times and I’m still shocked and heartbroken every single time I hear a new one. One of my dear friends was jumped and physically assaulted several years ago in New Orleans simply because a group of homophobic straight men saw him holding his boyfriend’s hand on the sidewalk. It took him years to go back to New Orleans because he was so traumatized by that experience. That story has stuck with me for a long time and I think about that story every time I hold my girlfriend’s hand in public. I’ve noticed people staring at us sometimes and there’s always that thought in the back of my mind, “Are they going to say something or do something to us?”. Personally, I choose to ignore those fearful thoughts and refuse to stop holding my girlfriend’s hand just because some stranger might be offended by it. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for people like my friend who has to live with the memory of being randomly attacked over something so minor.

It’s little things like that remind me that we have a long way to go before LGBTQ+ people are viewed as equals in society, especially in the South. We see straight couples holding hands and showing PDA all around us every single day and no one blinks an eye. Meanwhile, gay couples who share the same love for each other as any straight couple, are terrified to hold hands or do anything that may reveal their relationship to the world for fear of being verbally or physically harassed. If you’re a straight person reading this right now, take a minute to imagine everyday life as a gay man in love with his partner. Imagine fearing for your safety every time you hold hands with your partner of seven years. Imagine that feeling you get when you realize that this simple display of affection offends a stranger so much that he stops his vehicle to yell hateful things at you. Imagine how terrified you would be when a group of men are so disgusted by the sight of you holding another man’s hand that they feel it’s necessary to attack you on the street. I hope you remember those disturbing feelings the next time you’re casually and safely holding your partner’s hand in a public space.

Something as small as holding hands should not be an issue for any couple, but it absolutely is in the LGBTQ+ community. When we talk about the fight for equality, we’re not just talking about marriage or adoption or any other major legal issues that we see on the news. We’re also talking about minor, everyday inequalities like this. Until a gay couple can walk down the street holding hands in any city and not be stared at or harassed, the fight will continue.

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