Setting a date is always tricky. You have to find the place, pick the time, and the nervous jitters are just the absolute worst. However, as a gay man, there’s another layer to dating that can’t be solved by a successful date and a phone call after. But first, let me set the scene for you.
Picture this: We are in the Royal Exhibition Building. Well, to be more precise, the park that precedes the building itself. It’s a magnificent park with sprawling green fields, trees everywhere, small and large sized ponds accompanied by laughing children. The weather was particularly good. It was there that we decided to take a rest on a bench. With his head on my lap, the wind ruffling my hair, the sun nice and bright but adequately covered by the looming branches of a tree: it was like a fairy tale setting.
Unfortunately, every fairy tale has a villain.
An elderly man who did not find the need to introduce himself came up to us and immediately began throwing questions after questions.
“Are you guys Christians?”
No, and it turns out that he’s not either.
“I’m a Christian pastor.”
I nod politely.
“And I think you should come to church.”
I immediately narrow my eyes, is he? No, let’s hear him out. My date fidgeted uncomfortably next to me but kept silent.
Taking our silence as an opportunity to talk more, he began rambling about loving God and accepting him and pushing away Satan’s influence. At that point, it became very clear what he was trying to say and his motivation behind his “preaching”. I use that term very loosely and I’m feeling kind.
I cut him off abruptly and send him on his way but the damage is done. The mood is gone and my date looked visibly upset.
“Why do you think he targeted us?” He asked timidly. But we both knew the answer. It hung there above us. Needless to say we left the park very quickly on an almost bitter note.
Any queer person in a same-sex relationship can tell you a similar experience, even in 2018. Even after same-sex marriage was (finally) legalised. Even if more and more people seem to accept same-sex relationships with large organisations and companies coming out in support of the LGBT community, there still follows every same-sex couple, a fear. And it’s not an irrational one.
The fear all same-sex couples feel is the fear of being harassed, bullied, or even murdered for simply showing affection. It might seem silly to our straight counterparts that something as simple as holding your partner’s hand or giving your loved ones a quick peck on their cheek is enough to induce a panic attack, but it’s the reality that every queer person goes through every single day.
Holding your partner’s hand is almost like an Olympic sport, you have to constantly scan your surroundings for any potential bigotry directed at your way, you have to be able to let go of your partner’s hand in a moment’s notice because someone is glaring at you from across the street, you have to be painfully aware that your existence as a couple is somehow a political act, and not just you living your life with that special someone.
As a queer couple, every step, every breath, every act, every smile, every kiss is never just as simple as showing affection. It’s a constant battle between fear, anxiety, shame and your innate desire to just show love.
And that hurts.
To know that something you share with your partner is somehow the business of everyone around you, to know that showing affection could put a target on your head, to have your heart tied in a knot and to break out in cold sweat just because you want to show affection (and I don’t mean over the top get-a-room type of affection, but simple gestures that straight people take for granted).
It’s really fucking tiring.
Sure, the world is getting better. Society is getting more and more accepting. But that doesn’t change the fact that queer people still feel the need to hide themselves, to censor themselves; because we’ve been brought up to hate who we are, to be ashamed of who we are, to cast aside something so important to us.
It is a devastating phenomenon, a sickness that needs to be stopped and the only people that can do it is straight people, to put it quite simply.
So if you’re reading this and you’re straight, and you know people who are queer, family members who are queer, work with people who are queer, or just a general decent human being. Here’s what you can do – it seems obvious, but, if you need, I’ll spell it out for you.
Treat Us Like A Normal Couple
You don’t gawk at a straight couple holding hands, or if they decide to kiss each other farewell. You don’t make a scene or try to draw attention to straight couples doing couple-ly things (except maybe if they’re wearing matching outfits). You don’t make comments like “Oh look, that guy is holding a girl’s hand. Look. Look.” So why is it any different if we’re two people of the same sex?
I am well aware that some of you do mean well. I’ve had people smile at me when I walk by. I’ve had people even nod ever so slightly at our direction when we’re cuddling on a bench somewhere. I am aware that some of you are genuinely surprised, after all, we are all living in a heteronormative society so it’s quite normal to stare at things you don’t see quite often. Much like going to the zoo, you’d stare at exotic animals because you find them fascinating.
There’s just one problem:
We’re not fucking zoo animals. We’re human beings.
Don’t stop and point. Don’t whisper to your friends to quickly indicate that there is a queer couple nearby as if you just spotted a particularly good deal on Tim Tam’s at Woolies. Don’t feel the need to give us a second glance. Even if you think you mean well by encouraging us to show affection. Just try and restrain yourself. We would prefer not to constantly think that we’re somehow special or this is an event worth attention. We’re just trying to express our love to each other.
So, for god’s sake, please just leave us be. Let us be happy with each other.
A very tired and disgruntled homosexual.