I came out at age 14. I have been a known, self-confessed, avowed homo ever since. Everyone in my professional and personal circles know. They also approve, or tolerate it in a friendly way, or I will not tolerate them.
I write books about homos. I have served an LGBT-religious organization for over a decade, flying to international conferences, writing, speaking, and getting help to the kinds of emails I occasionally get – 13 year olds ready to commit suicide. I’m out and proud and sometimes even particularly loud.
And yet I have issues with public displays of affection.
Not those of other people. I’ve seen all kinds of exotic displays in my trips around the sun – and I very seldom have batted an eyelid or looked (always discreetly) twice.
Politically, I’m a live and let live kind of guy. I realized way back that you seldom convince people whose natural environments are echo chambers. If you are taught to believe that my existence is intrinsically sinful, and that my most beautiful relationship is inherently pathological – there is very little I can say to change your mind. Our conclusions do not follow our observations as a species. For us, it is the other way around. You’ll hear and see what you want to.
I encourage coming out. I encourage gay marriage. I even encourage outing people if they preach against LGBT people (from either faith based or poll based pulpits). I believe in privacy and people doing things in their own time – but you can’t be a Vichy Gay and not expect a slap.
All of these things are true – and yet showing affection in public is something I seldom do.
An activist-type friend (intersectionality, hippie, vegan-type person) recently took me on about it.
Internalized homophobia, they said (note my use of preferred pronouns).
Heteronormativity, they said.
Perpetuating the privileged power-structures of patriarchy, they said.
To which I replied: Nonsense.
It is true. The world should be a safe and free place, for anyone to express their relationships freely. But it isn’t.
Reading fan letters from people who read my work in places where being Gay is illegal – I know that much.
And it’s not that I do not fight for our rights.
I fight. Not just in one country either.
I give a lot to the struggle for equal treatment before the law(s).
However, my relationships are cherished, private and personal. Sacred to me.
And thus I also protect it.
The reason I don’t kiss my boyfriend in public, or visibly hold hands in public – mainly heterosexual spaces – is because when I show affection it isn’t for show. It’s because I love someone and I want to express that love.
I do it because if I kiss you it is because I want to kiss you – not because I’m trying to make some political statement.
It takes one bigot to react snidely. One group of yobs going gung-ho, high on mob attention. One helicopter parent to snatch his little kid away, scaring the hell out of the kid in the process…
And my relationship becomes a bone of contention. For people who, to a person, have: no. clue. what. the. hell. they. are. talking. about. I’m happy to debate the biology/ theology with them – but invariably, doing so would make me look like the bully.
I want to go out for a meal and have a great time with my partner.
I don’t need some ‘social conservative’ or some ‘outraged family values drone’ to vomit all over that.
And so I display public affection in Gay spaces. Or when I can do so discreetly.
Not because I am ashamed, or want to fit in. But if the worst of those who make something out of that – and beat us, behead us, throw us from buildings, or stab us – have the right to enjoy their wives and their offspring – then surely I also have that basic right.
You don’t have to like it. I won’t rub it in your face. I won’t confront you with my existence – you can ignore it with your wife and rest assured that your kids won’t know we exist (and if he happens to already be one, he would be under the sublime – if somewhat hard to navigate – impression that he is the only one ever who is like this).
I don’t do PDAs because I’m not that willing to vulnerable. Not in that space. And I’ll do my bit to build a better world – but I’m entitled to my own family.
So, no. My progressive friend needs to step away from ideology long enough to see beyond their own posterior. We have a hard enough time avoiding the hard right and the religious fanatics – we do not need to add some sort of ultra left orthodoxy on top of it.
ευχαριστώ to Chrysostomos Galathris for use if his image.