On PDA and Sexual Orientation

I’ve written before about the guilt that I experience over my heterosexual privilege. It’s something that I find myself thinking about a lot, especially when I’m in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. And so it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Jesus and I are pretty affectionate with each other, including when we’re in public. But I’m often uncomfortable with any PDA, but not because I don’t like other people seeing my affection with my partner. No, I’m uncomfortable with it because it’s another example of me having heterosexual privilege.

You often see heterosexual couples walking down the street hand-in-hand, or sitting on the train with their arms around each other, or stopping to give each other a kiss. And while you do see gay couples do some of those things, it’s a much rarer sight. Society accepts and approves of heterosexuality, and therefore is usually not bothered by heterosexual PDA. In fact, it often goes unnoticed! Heterosexual couples don’t have to think twice before grabbing each other’s hand or giving each other a kiss.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that for homosexual couples. Gay couples have to be careful where and when they touch each other, for fear of being stared at or harassed. Gay couples are “the other,” and therefore, their PDA is noticed. It’s often not approved of and met with negative reactions. When I have a non-male partner, I’m still affectionate, but that affection has made me fear for my safety in the past. I’ve been harassed and heckled and threatened by heterosexual males when out with femme partners to the point that I’ve had to go get security because I was legitimately afraid. Therefore, I’m weary about being able to be as lovey with my partner as I would sometimes like when we’re in public.

I also know that the more people see homosexual couples being affectionate with each other and acting just like straight couples, the more normalized it will become. But it takes really brave homos to challenge people’s ideas and society’s list of “acceptable behaviors,” and not everyone is willing to do that. And it’s not because they’re ashamed to be gay. It’s because they can be putting themselves in literal danger just because they wanted to hold their partner’s hand.

I’m trying to get past the guilt I feel when Jesus gives me a kiss on the train or on the sidewalk, but it’s not always that easy. There’s a part of me that still feels guilty that I’m free to be affectionate with my partner in public simply because that partner happens to have a penis.

*I ask that you don’t turn the comments section into a “but I’m straight and I hate PDA!” thing, because if that’s the only response you can think of, you’ve totally missed the point of this post. The point is not whether or not PDA is good or bad or enjoyable or not, but that gay couples can actually be putting themselves in danger for any PDA, while straight couples are not.

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  1. EveyNo Gravatar
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    *sigh* I have definitely experienced something similiar. For me, it’s primarily when talking about my partners in society. I am poly and happened to become involved with my male partner, who is my primary, before meeting my female partner. I hate talking about him to people who don’t know about my poly relationships because I feel like I’m putting forth a false inferred identity about my sexuality. People assume I’m straight when I talk about my boyfriend and I hate the notion that I need to throw in a random comment about my girlfriend just to let them subtly know I’m a queer/poly kinda girl.. *grumble*

  2. alanaNo Gravatar
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Though I hate most PDA, this is something that really bothers me too. I got in an argument with Ryan’s father just a few weeks ago about this actually. He used the old “I just don’t it thrown in my face” argument, but he doesn’t realize that what he considers to be overkill is just gay couple taking advantage of the same privileges heterosexual couple have. How is hugging your partner or keeping a picture of them on your desk throwing it in people’s faces? It makes no sense yet this is what a lot people say.

    Of course Ryan’s dad once said gay couples get the exact same rights in civil unions as married people do and the problem is they want more rights and won’t accept anything less. Point being he has no idea what he’s talking about.

  3. JanieNo Gravatar
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s a horrific double standard, and it always warms my heart when I do see homosexual PDAs – not just because affection makes me happy, but because you know that they are doing something brave and helping to normalise what should already be normalised!

    I understand your guilt (it’s how I feel when I complain about the hike in university tuition fees when I know full well that it would not affect me that much because of my economic privilege) but do not feel bad. Enjoy your PDAs, just as you wish others to. There are better ways to channel those feelings (as I know you are aware).

  4. SkyddsDrakeNo Gravatar
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Recently there was a couple thrown out of a local mall area because they were a homosexual couple and they kissed. The security there literally escorted them out. That part of the story is horrible. The good part of the story? NO ONE stood for it. There was a great big demonstration and now every employee at the mall has to undergo cultural diversity training.

    While I think it completely fucking sucks that this couple had to deal with the embarrassment/harassment of getting kicked out the mall, I’m positively thrilled that folks really came together and created change out of it.

  5. rNo Gravatar
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I can attest that all these things are true. I am generally comfortable being affectionate in major metro areas. When I go home to the dirty south, I am far more, shall we say, aware of whether or not I’m being affectionate.

    That said, I can’t hide that I’m gay at all, since I don’t present to the gender norms. So, eff it, I hold hands and touch my partner in an affectionate manner on occasion.

    If someone gay bashes me, it won’t be the first time or probably the last. My main concern is that someone would hurt or harass my partner, because that would likely spark a jail-able cutting of bitches from me or both of us.

  6. Mr MNo Gravatar
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    I hate it when people use their Blackberry’s in public. Or any other PDA for that matter! (Especially the Palm Pilot variety.)

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    [...] a similar vein as my post two days ago, and related to my post from National Coming Out Day, I’ve been struggling a bit with [...]

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