Editorial 40 - Public Displays of Affection
Many people are used to reading news and articles on The Advocate web site. There is a slick magazine by the same name. The November 7, 2006 edition of The Advocate magazine has two articles about showing affection on a commercial plane flight, “Gays on a Plane,” and “What Happened on Flight 45?”
There are two different versions about what took place, the airline company’s understanding of events and the gay couple’s memory of the trip. Evidently, the couple showed more public affection than some people were comfortable seeing, so a flight attendant asked them to stop showing so much affection.
The article raises some society needs to discuss. When is showing affection in public, or being out for that matter, “flaunting” your sexuality?
Straight people at work or at social functions often talk about their husbands, wives, children, and grandchildren. A spouse dropping at work might get a quick kiss. None of that is seen as flaunting heterosexuality, but it is an open, public display of sexuality. A gay person talking about his or her partner, or sharing a quick kiss with a partner at work could expect to hear complaints that they are “flaunting” their life style.
Make-out sessions at work are not acceptable. In North America, straight teenagers are tolerated when they engage in a bit of public making out. They might hear some comments - get a room - but that is likely to be all they hear. Two gay youth making out would certainly anger many people, because they would be seen to be flaunting their homosexuality. We do not see many gay couples kissing, holding hands, or making out, because it is not safe in many communities for gay couples to be showing any public affection.
The reality needs to be faced. A kiss is a kiss. A hug is a hug. There is nothing any more vile or filthy about a kiss between a man and a woman than there is about a kiss between two women, or a kiss shared by two men. The same chances of bacteria or viruses being exchanged exists if the couple is gay or straight. Society has many gay people. We can and should expect to see same-sex couples kissing, making out, and showing public affection. We need to address our fears and personal issues, so we can respond in an appropriate way.
In the documentary God and Gays: Bridging the Gap, Deborah L. Johnson says she asks straight people how long they could hide being straight. Expecting gay people to keep their life style in a closet is not reasonable unless we expect straight people to keep their life style in the closet too. Think that is easy? Think how hard it would be for a married, straight person to go a month without letting anybody know he or she is married, and has kids. Remember, nobody can know - not colleagues at work, neighbors, the landlord, employers, people at church, nobody can know. That is no mean task. And that is what we as a society expect gay people to do not for a few days, or a few weeks, but for their entire life time.