Before I dated my wife I dated men. I went on dates in public places with men including places like the beach and the movies. At all of these places I engaged in public displays of affection otherwise known as PDA. This could be as simple as holding hands or as much as kissing, or cuddling. I never thought twice about it.
I have been with my wife for ten years. A full decade. In that time I can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve held hands in public or engaged in any type of PDA.
I am by nature private and am not one to be extremely affectionate in public. But being married to a woman has made me even more cautious.
Recently a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in awhile messaged me on facebook and told me how much they were enjoying my blog and how much they really had no idea what my wife and I went through to be together. That’s not the first heterosexual friend to tell me that since I started this blog. Many have told me they had not idea that I didn’t dance at their wedding because it was a heterosexual wedding full of heterosexual people, or that they didn’t know about the decisions we made when selling our home in terms of our family pictures, or about the decision to be an “out” provider. That’s basically the point of my writing. Heterosexual individuals including some of my dearest friends and beloved family members, take for granted the hetero-normative culture we live in.
I vividly remember my wife and my first date. It was at a restaurant. I felt like we had a big neon red sign flashing over our table, “Lesbian Date Here” and I was terrified. I had witnessed too much discrimination with my friends and sister who were gay to be relaxed. I waited for someone to peg us as being on a date and start making comments.
We didn’t go on another date for a long time. I mean, we went out places, but I kept it very neutral in public. I still do to some degree.
In a decade we’ve been on countless dates to the movies, the beach, vineyards, hikes, etc. As I’m sure any couple who has been together a decade can attest to, we’ve spent a lot of time together privately and in public spaces. I can say that unless we were in a gay bar though, we were not holding hands, we were not putting our arms around one another, we were not pecking on the cheek if she dropped me off a coffee at work, or any other hundreds of reasons why we interact on a daily basis in public.
Not all lesbian couples are this way. Many don’t give a shit and more power to them. I personally am generally hyperaware of other people and I just don’t want to deal with discrimination. If we are with another lesbian couple we are more likely to feel comfortable holding hands, and definitely if we are in a gay space.
Something that has brought this to the forefront for me lately is our sons. We are a very affectionate family in general. Our sons are all over us and we are all over them. Since we had them and since we started venturing out in public with toddler twins I’ve realized that I still care about facing discrimination as a result of PDA, but I also don’t want my sons to see me acting differently than they are used to. They’ve sort of turned our world upside down in every possible way.
I’m not going to turn into a PDA slut, and the point of me writing this is not to be some major transformative moment for me. It is to bring awareness to my hetero-audience.
You take for granted your freedoms.
If you know a lesbian couple who has been together a long time you should take stock of what you’ve witnessed in terms of PDA and recognize if there’s a general lack of PDA that it’s not because they are not or do not want to be affectionate.
It’s because they don’t feel safe being affectionate.
Straight people have privilege to be natural all the time. If you want to reach out and touch your spouse’s hand as they walk by you in a crowded room, out of reflex, you can. I have been with my wife for ten years. I have literally held her hand in public less than ten times. If I really sit here and think about that it brings tears to my eyes. Next time you hold someone you love in public think about the freedom that gives you the opportunity to do so and don’t take it for granted.