For most people, public displays of affection (PDA) are a personal choice meant for the enjoyment of the couple partaking in the act exclusively. However, when I hold my girlfriend’s hand it’s not just for warm fuzzy feelings.
I feel as an “out” woman who is comfortable with her sexuality that I owe the visibility to society – a responsibility almost.
True, the presence of LGBT characters has increased in popular culture, but although more lesbian and bisexual characters are being cast in television and movies, they’re still just made-up.
They’re still just Hollywood.
Orange is the New Black, for example, is an extremely progressive television show, and undoubtedly makes us all want to end up in prison just so we can meet Alex Vause in the shower – but it’s not a realistic situation.
Pretty Little Liars, a prime-time show popular with young adults, has lesbian character Emily Fields, who we see struggle with the woes of homosexuality and dating women (an endeavor in itself). But again, this isn’t real life. It takes place in a town that literally does not exist.
While the increasing visibility of lesbian lives in modern media does mean a lot for our movement, reality paints a different picture for the lives of actual LGBT women. A less plastic, and more awkward reality. The most commonplace reaction I’ve gotten whilst displaying my affection publicly is less of a comment and more of a request.
“Are you guys lesbians? You should make out!”
Clearly, a totally acceptable thing to say to someone. I’m thankful though, because without these comments, coming exclusively from males, I would never know the appropriate time to kiss the girl I’m with.
There are some places however, where even I will refrain from PDA, not because I’m scared, but simply because it’s just not worth it. You know what happens when lesbians start grinding at non-gay nightclub? It’s pretty much a free show.
Despite the ignorance that exists and the hollering it produces, it is important to me to express and embrace my identity, even in public settings. It’s up to everyday people in everyday situations to make a more direct difference.
Some people can handle a steamy lesbian kiss on television, but gawk at two girls holding hands in their own city. The only way to combat ignorance is to change the way people think, and the best remedy is exposure. Lesbian relationships need to be normalized in the public realm. The idea needs to be brought closer to home, and not just end with the click of a remote.
This is why I make a point to act completely natural with my girlfriend in public. To do things that I see many straight couples do every day.
I know these small actions have made, and will continue to make a difference. Whether it’s someone who isn’t out of the closet yet, or a couple that doesn’t feel comfortable expressing their affection publically (in a respectable way of course) the small flicker of visibility could ignite something much bigger.
That being said, I have been with women who are not as comfortable partaking in PDA as myself. My girlfriend happily holds my hand but still says she feels people staring, which I can’t really blame them for. It’s a natural curiosity that I embrace and welcome.
Because that’s the point, right?
It is to bring people out of their comfort zones and into a more accepting world. One peck, one hand embrace, and flirtatious gesture at a time.