I wanna hold your hand (and other straight jealousy)
As the title says, it’s a simple request; all I want to do is hold a hand, specifically my partner’s hand. We’ve been together for 8 years and I’ve never openly held his hand or been overly affectionate in public, and a video posted recently of two men in Russia just walking down the street holding hands painfully illustrates the kind of reactions that we would get. Obviously, the UK is far more liberal than Russia when it comes to gay rights, but I would still feel nervous about what could potentially happen.
I consider myself a strong guy mentally, and if someone is openly homophobic I will stand up for myself, but it’s the subtle type of reactions that bother me more. The whispers and stares from people we would get for doing something so benign that straight people don’t even have to think about it. I do feel a pang of sadness and jealousy when I’m walking along with my partner and see couples holding hands or being affectionate, completely oblivious to the world around them, thinking of nothing more than their eventual destination or what’s for dinner that night.
Straight people take for granted how easy it is for them to display affection towards their significant other, and while there may be a very small minority of people who might stare at a straight couple, if they are of, say different races or different physicality, it is nowhere near the level of hostility a gay couple would endure.
I also very rarely visit “straight” nightclubs on a Friday or Saturday because it only takes one person saying something to ruin a night out. I feel constantly on edge, always wary of the kind of people who are about and how they might react to me, and obviously, with alcohol involved, this becomes more of a minefield. Most straight people can go to a nightclub and have a great night out without the fear of either having something said or worse, being attacked. Yes, it can happen that anyone can get into an incident in a nightclub, but as a gay person, the odds are stacked far more against me.
I’m lucky in the fact that I’ve only ever experienced a few incidences of outright homophobic verbal abuse, and I’ve never been physically attacked and I consider myself fortuitous that the most I’ll get from friends and work colleagues would be considered nothing more than friendly banter and natural curiosity to me. However, what is friendly banter to me, could be incredibly hurtful to someone else and in the younger LGBT population especially, who may still be struggling with their identity this can be potentially dangerous.
To some straight people reading this, they may question why I would be jealous of them, and this is where the problem lies, they don’t see a problem. They don’t have the need to see an issue, something I and the LGBT community don’t have the luxury of.
The reason we have Pride events is so that as a community we can feel safe enough to be ourselves, where the worst we’ll get is from a few sad people in anoraks quoting bible verses at us, who are easily ignored. I’ve had it asked to me and others many times “Why do you have pride marches?” And my usual reaction is “be thankful you don’t need one”. The fact we have had to fight to be given basic rights, and it took until the 21st century to even be allowed to have a civil partnership shows there it still a long way to go to change people’s attitudes. We simply haven’t come far enough to stop the fight for our right to exist and to be recognised.
But what can be done, should all gay couples just hold hands and sod the reactions? Sadly this isn’t as easy as it sounds. In some places in the UK, this could potentially result in a violent reaction. LGBT people have been attacked and or killed, and over 35,000 incidences of homophobic hate crimes go unreported every year. Does this illustrate that the LGBT community are so used to these kind of reactions that they consider it pointless to report it anymore, or is there something of a more deeply disturbing trend when it comes to homophobic abuse, in that LGBT people don’t feel anything would be done even if it was reported and would that then result in worse treatment from the perpetrator after they got their slap on the wrist. Statistics show that fewer than 1 in 10 homophobic hate crimes that are actually reported lead to a conviction.
Times they are a changing though, and the general overall attitude towards gay people is positive and accepting, and as people become more educated about the LGBT community the more people will not think twice about seeing two men holding hands.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.