Christine Allen felt too vulnerable to kiss her lesbian date in full view of a row of taxi drivers outside The Front Lounge. But now she’s thinking twice about PDA’s.
“Oh, no, sorry.”
It’s 2am. I’m standing outside The Front Lounge with my date, whose attempt at a goodnight kiss I’ve skillfully sidestepped. By way of explanation, I give a subtle nod towards the line of taxis that hug the pavement. Comprehending, she settles for a brief hug.
The following day at lunch, a lesbian friend is eager to hear how my date unfolded. When pressed on whether lips were locked, I’m left with no choice but to tell her.
“Ah, Chris!” she exclaims. “Who cares if people could see?” For the remainder of our lunch, we discuss little else. I leave her questioning whether I’m as ‘out and proud’ as I claim to be.
In an attempt to validate my reluctance to engage in public displays of affection (PDA’s) with other women outside the confines of an LGBT establishment, I invited friends to give their opinions. To my surprise, the vast majority claim that they are more than happy to hold hands with a partner whilst strolling around Dublin city centre. When pressed further, however, they acknowledge that their decision on whether or not to be openly affectionate depends on location, context and time of day.
“I’ll rarely do it at night, unless I’ve had a few,” says one lesbian pal. “Even in the daytime you have to be vigilant. I’ve experienced some scary incidents. Once my girlfriend and I had to do a runner for our own safety.”
A male friend expresses his reluctance to engage in any behaviour whatsoever on the streets that might give away his sexual orientation. “It’s not worth the risk. If I was a gay woman, maybe it would be different. Girls are naturally affectionate with one another. I think that explains why lesbians get away with a lot more.”
When asked if he believes PDA’s between gay men have increased in recent years, he answers in the negative. “I’ve only ever seen two men holding hands once. That was on George’s St, and they literally walked from The George to The Dragon.”
Despite my own trepidation in regards to PDA’s, I’m starting to question my decision not to kiss my date on Parliament Street. After all, how will homophobic attitudes and behaviours be eradicated if individuals like me let go of another woman’s hand at the first sign of a straight person?
We’ve all heard the saying ‘there’s safety in numbers’. Isn’t it true that an increase in the visibility of our relationships would not only render us less vulnerable to negative attention, but ‘normalise’ our relationships for those outside of the LGBT community?
Having spoken to a Spanish friend, there appears to be some merit to this line of argument. In her hometown of Madrid, PDA’s between same-sex couples are as “frequent as the rain in Ireland”, and subsequently, “nobody cares”. So, should we follow in the footsteps of Spanish gays and make the conscious decision to no longer hide our partnerships when out in public – irrespective of context, location or hour?
Then again, aren’t there times when “playing the hero” (as one friend coins it) would be foolhardy? Would it be wise for a gay man to greet his boyfriend at the Spire on a Saturday night with a kiss? Isn’t it fair to say that his action could result in verbal, if not physical, abuse?
Apart from the inherent dangers, I am well aware that PDA’s are not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t particularly want to be subjected to two individuals sucking the face off each other at my bus stop either. But in saying this, I strongly believe that everyone should have the option to outwardly express, at a socially acceptable level, their affection for the person they are romantically involved with, without fear of harassment or attack.
Although there can be no doubt that we have come a long way in regard to LGBT people being viewed as equals within our society, same-sex couples in can still feel restricted in what they can and can’t do. As Panti Bliss so eloquently articulated in her Noble Call speech at the Abbey in February of this year, homophobia has created an ‘oppressive’ atmosphere, one that causes us to ‘check ourselves’ and our actions.
There is no shame in an individual deciding not to engage in a PDA when they feel that their safety might be compromised. But situations in which we are likely to feel more at ease will arise. It is within these contexts that we should show society that outward expressions of our relationships are not confined to a Gay Pride parade or a patch of street sandwiched between two of Dublin’s largest Gay bars.
With this in mind, I’ve made a decision. Date No.2 takes place this weekend with the girl whose kiss I avoided outside The Front Lounge. We’ve arranged to go shopping on Henry St and so, when the right moment presents itself, I’m going to take a deep breath and (Beatles style) tell her: “I wanna hold your hand.”
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