I’m not talking about ‘get a room’ style public displays of affection that most of us would be happy to agree is uncomfortable for everyone except those writhing in the grips of passion. I’m talking about holding hands, a quick kiss on the lips and the everyday subtle touches between couples. It seems like a no brainer really to hold hands with your partner in public yet we’ve actually found ourselves being not only conscious of PDAs between us but also considering the people around us before even holding hands. It became even more of a consideration once we had children – wanting to protect them from any signs of hate speech or worse.
How comfortable are you and your friends around two men or women kissing, hugging and holding hands in public? Is it an issue? I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that we are well beyond people needing to censor their behaviour in public on the off chance that someone might take offense and act on that. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Only this week there has been a young man in Brisbane on the receiving end of homophobic slurs in a place that you would expect was one of the most accepting environments – the University of Queensland.
What had Lucas Bird done to warrant this hate speech and discrimination? He walks around the university holding his partner’s hand. That’s it – people know he is gay and that was enough to entice 3 young men to verbally abuse Lucas in clear day light and no one intervened.
There are a number of facets to this attack. If people are brazen enough to verbally abuse someone in front of other people in day light what would or could these same people do say late one night, after some alcohol or drugs in any given street around bars and night spots? Secondly why did no one intervene and speak up for Lucas? Why does it matter to the overwhelming number everyday people who wouldn’t do this?
We all have a place in making our world safer for gay people. We have to make it completely unacceptable to be hateful and homophobic towards people. There should be no double standard. Whether a heterosexual couple walks around campus holding hands or a homosexual couple it should not give rise to abuse. Smalls steps by each of us is what will make a difference and that starts with people becoming more comfortable with seeing couples together. Laws being changed to criminalize hate speech and marriage equality will play their part however they will only go so far. Each of us, gay or our straight allies, need to make it safe for anyone to show affection for their partner in public.
Would you be confident enough to speak up if someone was being verbally attacked like Lucas was?
Just doubling back on our personal experiences with PDA’s and how we censor ourselves, yes I absolutely acknowledge we censor ourselves. Friday morning the grocery delivery man was bringing our groceries upstairs and I was heading off to work. Monique and I without even speaking knew we were not going to kiss each other goodbye in his presence. Why? We don’t know him and he knows our address. Having both been in situations where homophobia has turned to violence it is safer for us to not kiss in front of a stranger in our house. I am fundamentally opposed to this censoring but the safety of my family is more important than my desire to fight homophobia. In many public situations we will not hold hands or put our arms around each other because we subconsciously assess the risk as too high. Last year we camped at a popular car race and this was an area we were aware of our surroundings and were mindful to not show PDAs. I am not for one second suggesting that every person is a potential criminal or stereotyping people, my thoughts are that attacks can and do happen and our safety is paramount.
If you are straight or gay are there circumstances that you would not engage in PDAs? Have you even thought about PDAs?
Lucas’s full story.