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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018
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Opinion: Should I be afraid to express affection to another woman on the street?

After side-stepping a goodnight kiss with a date, I wondered why I was so slow to be affectionate in public…

Christine Allen Sports convert and IT engineer

“OH – NO, SORRY”

Its 2am.

I’m standing outside The Front Lounge with my date, whose attempt at a goodnight kiss I’ve skilfully side-stepped. As 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 we locked lips, I’m left with no choice but to tell her.

“Ah Chris! Who cares if people could see?! You’re out like, what’s the problem?” 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 PDAs (public displays of affection) with other women outside the confines of an LGBT establishment, I invite friends to give their opinions on the topic. To my surprise, the vast majority claim that they are more than happy to hold hands with a partner whilst strolling around the 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.

‘You have to be vigilant’

“Ill rarely do it at night – unless I’ve had a few. Even in the daytime you have to be vigilant.” One lesbian pal warns, “I’ve experienced some scary incidents where myself and my girlfriend have had to do a runner for our own safety.”

Citing Operation Aughrim, set up in 2013 by An Garda Siochana in response to a number of violent robberies and assaults around the George’s Street area, a male friend expresses his reluctance to engage in any behaviour on the streets that will give away his sexual orientation. “It’s not worth the risk. If I was a gay woman – maybe. Girls are naturally affectionate with one another – I think that explains why lesbians get away with a lot more.”

When asked if he believes that PDAs 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 Street, and they literally walked from The George to The Dragon.”

An increase in the visibility  

Despite the fact that my trepidation in regards to expressing PDA with other women has been validated, as I listen to my friends experiences, I begin to feel angry. I’m also now questioning my decision not to kiss my date on Parliament Street. After all, how will homophobic attitudes and behaviours ever be eradicated if individuals like myself continue to 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 to 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 between same-sex couples are as “frequent as the rain in Ireland” and subsequently, “nobody cares.” Should we as a community follow in the footsteps of our Spanish counterparts, and make the concious decision to no longer hide our partnerships when out in public – irrespective of context, location or hour?

Wise or foolhardy?

Then again, aren’t there times when “playing the hero” (as one friend coins it) would be foolhardy? Would it really 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 this action could result in verbal, if not physical, abuse?

For the purpose of this piece, I have focused on couples that wish to engage in PDA. I am well aware however that PDAs are not everyone’s cup of tea. Like most, I don’t particularly want to be subjected to two individuals sucking the face off each other at my bus stop either. In saying this, I strongly believe that everyone should have the option to outwardly express, at a socially acceptable level, their affection towards the person that 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 Dublin’s city centre do at times still feel restricted in what they can and can’t do. As PantiBliss so eloquently articulated in her Noble Call speech in February of this year at the Abbey, homophobia within Dublin has created an ‘oppressive’ atmosphere, one that causes us to ‘check ourselves’ and our actions.

Our relationships are not confined to a gay pride parade 

There is no shame in an individual deciding not to engage in PDA when they feel that their safety is under threat. There are other ways in which we can tackle homophobia head on – through conversation with our straight peers for example. The more allies that stand by us, the less vulnerable we become.

Situations in which we are likely to feel more at ease in regard to partaking in PDA will, however, 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 an area 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 at the opening of this article. We’ve arranged to go shopping on Henry Street and so, when the right moment presents itself, I’m going to take one deep breath and (Beatles style) tell her “I wanna hold your hand.”

Christine is 26 and entering her third year of Information Technology at DCU – a part time course funded for those that are unemployed. In between trying to get to grips with JAVA programming and looking for work, she loves nothing better than sitting down at the laptop with a cup of tea, and writing. She has been published in DIVA Magazine, on TheJournal.ie and Gaelick.com. She is also Opinions Editor for the DCU newspaper, thecollegeview. One day she would like to be known as the lesbian version of Carrie Bradshaw. Follow Christine on Twitter here

This article was first published in TheOutmost.com.

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About the author:

Christine Allen  / Sports convert and IT engineer

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