As A Queer Woman I Understand Why Most LGBTQI+ People Don't Hold Hands In Public & Why Pride Is A Protest
When you are excited about dating someone new or maybe falling in love, or maybe even in a relationship as comfy as your bobbliest, oldest, holiest but-you-love-them socks, one of the super cute first moments is the first time you hold hands. That leap of faith, reaching for someone's hand without knowing if they might hold it back is super scary, but add to that fear the fear for your own safety and you might understand why most LGBTQI+ people don't feel comfortable holding hands in public.
A hopeless and resolute romantic, this is the sort of event that I remember, maybe with a dot in my diary (organisational diary that is, not a "dear diary I done fell in luv" type thing). Moments like this are super important and precious to say the least. A national survey of 108,000 members of the LGBTQI+ community showed that over two-thirds wouldn't hold their partner's hand in public. I am sure that if you are a straight, liberal person who considers yourself to be an ally of the community, reading this, you probably think it sounds ridiculous and maybe that people are being a little too sensitive. Because you would never judge someone or make them feel bad about their love. Yes, but you aren't the problem. The world is.
In recent years, the term "safe words" has gained a whole, new more kinky meaning. But never really getting the desire to have someone clip me over the ears or whatever while in the act, safe words have a very different meaning to me. With my last girlfriend it was "pickled seal." I can't remember why exactly it became a thing, but it was referencing her liking rollmops. Even typing that word makes me feel a little sick because like, GROSS, but each to their own.
With my current partner, it's a different one that shall remain secret because safe words for me mean something completely different. They are code for "this is not a safe situation to be openly together." I use the term "openly together" because honestly, it can range from holding hands, to hugging, to kissing, to an affectionately placed hand upon your waist. Not until you have had to look around your surroundings to check that it's OK to be openly together will you understand exactly how it feels. Just like you, I do not agree that people should repress their feelings or emotions, but the sad fact is that it is sometimes genuinely not worth the potential verbal harassment or even worse.
Having someone shout "LESBIAN!" at you while you walk down the street holding your partner's hand might sound weird, because guess what? It is really effing weird. I don't ever think to shout "HETERO" at someone holding hands or kissing. Or to leer at them, grinning like they are my very own private sex show, for free. Or to maybe throw in a little wink or thumbs-up, just to let them know they are doing their thang and it's all to your liking. That sounds crazy, right? Well, for us queers, that is not actually so crazy. That is being a couple in public.
Close friends of mine who shall remain anonymous, both talented musicians and formerly a couple, once had a taxi driver accuse them of "having sex in his car" because they simply kissed on the lips. Shouting that he didn't want that "sort of thing" in his cab. When I say kiss, I mean a little peck, very PG and OK in front of your parents sort of vibes. Completely enraged and shaken by the whole experience, despite me and other friends encouraging them to go public with the altercation and complain, they didn't. The sad and grim fact is stuff like this isn't super unusual.
I can't really explain the sad, shameful, painful, agonising feeling of consciously letting go of your partner's hand. It is like rejecting someone you really love and don't want to reject, but it happens on a low level that serves to remind you that you are different and people are noticing you more.
How the heck do we stop this feeling among queers though? How do we feel complete equality and pride pre-, post-, and during Gay Pride? The importance of safe spaces is unquantifiable. Safe spaces are defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:
A place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.
Being somewhere free from homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny is a bit like breathing fresh AF air after being stuck on a tube with only standing room only on a hot day. This is why you can understand that many queers, myself included, are very protective of our safe spaces.
A video made by ANZ bank to celebrate Pride, put forward the #holdtight hashtag.
The video, showing queer couples reaching out for each other's hands and then pulling away is so, so, so relatable. Towards the end, they choose to #holdtight instead. I well up, like, every time I watch this effing video. It is like some sort of ritualistic emotional torture I put myself through, but it is so worth it. Not only is it evocative, but you know bloody what? It is the flipping future. Get out there, hold hands, and be proud. Every day, not only on Pride.
Pride is not only a celebration. It must also remain a protest. Yes, a lot of work has been done, but we are nowhere near finished. As a cis gendered white queer woman, I know I am one of the lucky few to say that I feel safe to be openly gay a lot of the time. Pride is an opportunity to celebrate our history, our culture, and fight for the rights of the marginalised members of our community. To stand up for the rights of queer people of colour, trans people, disabled people, and for the young and old that feel forgotten and ignored.
But that is only in our country. This doesn't take account of the global issue of queer rights, with 72 countries still holding homosexuality as a criminal act, according to the Guardian. These are countries where holding hands won't just mean a nasty look, comment, or sneer, but could cost you your freedom. Represent the underrepresented, and if you have any kind of a voice, shout until you can't shout any more.
This Pride, and every other day, it's important to celebrate what's been achieved, while looking forward to the battles still ahead. Hold tight, hold hands, hold each other close, because the fight is not over, and we will not quit until it is.