Our kitchen has a bank of windows that look out onto a main
street. During the day it’s nice to look out and watch the world go by
while you’re making a sandwich. We never put blinds on those windows, so
you can see in if you’re walking by at night. Sometimes I’ll be in the
kitchen, cooking dinner with my partner.
We’ll be joking around and talking while we’re cooking, and it will
lead towards wanting to kiss. But before it goes there, one of us hits
the light switch so it’s dark, or we go into another room just in case
someone was walking by on the street and could see in. I’m not talking
about any sort of major make-out session, I’m really just talking about
some closed mouth kissing.
Why do we turn off the lights? Fear. Despite the fact that we’re in
our own home, despite the fact that we’re not doing anything illegal and
despite the fact that it’s none of anyone’s business what kind of
make-out session we have, we still feel like it’s necessary to protect
ourselves by hiding in the dark.
Valentine’s Day always gets me thinking about the crushing amounts of
hetero displays of affection I’m exposed to. On television, at stores,
in bars, on the street, people make out in the straight world all the
time and the worst thing they have to worry about is being labeled
“tacky”. Advertisements abound with images of happy women
enthusiastically kissing doting boyfriends and husbands. If a gay kiss
happens on television it is news-worthy due both to its rarity and the
intense amounts of controversy it creates.
One has to go no farther than a quick google search about gay people
kissing in public to find out how not ok people are with any sort of
“gay” affection. Gay people are frequently ejected from restaurants and
other public places for being affectionate. Sometimes the police rough
up the gays a little in the process.
ABC News recently did a social experiment where one lesbian couple
and one gay couple displayed public affection for each other and then
observed what happened. A woman in Birmingham even chose to call 911 in
reaction to the gay couple making out. ABC News posted her 911 call in
their report which is as follows:
Operator: “Birmingham Police operator 9283″
Caller: “We have a couple of men sitting out on the
bench that have been kissing and drooling all over each other for the
past hour or so. It’s not against the law, right?”
Operator: “Not to the best of my knowledge it’s not.”
Caller: “So there’s no complaint I could make or have?”
Operator: “I imagine you could complain if you like ma’am. We can always send an officer down there.”
Despite the fact that this was a social experiment ABC News had
cleared with both the city and the police, the officer still told them,
“Just don’t do that in public.”
In addition to anecdotal accounts of homophobic reaction, there is
also some scientific evidence backing up people’s queasy reactions to
gay PDA. Jesse Bering wrote an article for Scientific American
describing a study that points to the evidence that even “gay-friendly”
people may still unconsciously feel disgust when they see two men
kissing in public.
The study argues that people’s reaction has an evolutionary basis.
According to their theory, “Individuals belonging to unfamiliar groups,
especially those who engaged in unusual practices regarding food,
cleanliness and sex, posed a higher risk of carrying novel (and
therefore particularly dangerous) infectious agents. Perceiving such
individuals would thus activate the behavioral immune system and cause
avoidance behavior and the accompanying emotion of disgust…. ”
Bering argues that the study actually is positive for those
interested in public gay kissing. He explains that over time people can
be habituated to that which previously disgusted them, arguing that the
way to a more accepting society is through more public kissing, not
While I love the idea kissing our way to more acceptance, I feel
torn. I don’t trust people I don’t know or the police not to mistreat me
for who I am. I think for me it will have to be about baby steps,
starting with being affectionate with my partner around people I already
trust and trying to slowly change my conditioning to hide affection.
I’m not talking about anything over the top in terms of PDA, but we
almost never make contact with each other in any way outside of our home
which is a little extreme.
I think it’s important to strike the balance between being brave and
being safe. If you’re not ready to sit on a park bench and kiss, think
about all the ways you edit your behavior around people you do know who
care about you, and if it seems like you’re repressing yourself, change