As I walk past the Oviatt Library, a couple basking in the sun by one of the library’s lawns diverts my attention.
A man lies resting his head on his girlfriend’s lap. She runs her fingers through his hair and fondles his hand in love. Their eyes lock and their gazes into each other’s eyes scream to the world their affinity for one another.
I am a romantic, so the sight of two people displaying affection hits a tender spot within me. A simple kiss, two hands interlocked, and a lover’s affectionate touch, are beautiful. They highlight aspects of human nature that, for some, make life worth living.
But this simple gesture between the two lovers triggers a bout of sadness within me. It dawns on me that something so small as playing with your loved one’s hand, or resting your head on your significant other’s lap, is not a luxury everyone can afford.
How often do you see two men lying in the sun, playing with each other’s hands, or two woman gazing into each other’s eyes while one of them rests her head on her girlfriend’s lap?
My guess is not often.
The dilemma posed is that, in general, homosexual couples do not refrain from public displays of affection because they want to, but instead because public affection between homosexuals is stigmatized and discouraged by society. For many gay couples, PDA is not even a safe option, unlike for their heterosexual counterparts who can choose whether to be affectionate in public or not.
Gay men and women face greater societal pressure to keep their relationships undercover. In a society of supposed “equality,” gay men and women still have to live in fear of being victims of hate crimes and public scrutiny, as hugging a same-sex partner in public could at worst result in physical harm from ignorant people, or at least solicit stares of disgust from those passing.
My friend’s recent broken, bruised and bloodied nose as a result of such hatred tells me that this unfortunate fear of societal backlash against homosexuality is well founded. The fact that his attack was preceded by use of the word “faggot” sadly indicates that this world is not equal at all.
As I walk around campus noticing the numerous couples engaging in various degrees of PDA, I wonder if heterosexual couples ever worry about being attacked or harassed by people who do not approve of their relationships.
I wonder if those couples are forced to secretly hold a lover’s hand under a table or behind closed doors like I have. Do they know how it feels to abruptly tear away from a lover’s warm, soft, assuring touch because someone is walking by a little too closely?
My mind progresses, wondering if heterosexual couples appreciate the ease of their kisses, while some, such as myself, are forced to quickly scan the perimeter to guage whom — if anyone — is looking, or if there is a potential for attack. I think about how gay men and women are restricted to confining their affection to gay communities and areas perceived to be a “safer” environment for the gay community.
But again, my friend’s broken, bruised and bloodied nose having occurred as he exited a gay club proves that even this haven is not much safer for gay men and women then any other place.
Continuing my journey through campus, all I seem to see are heterosexual couples professing love for one another through a touch, a kiss or a hug as if they were rubbing their freedom in my face.
Through a simple interlocking of fingers and intertwined arms, I imagine my boyfriend and I challenging societal taboos and consciously showing the world that we, same-sex partners, exist. But I am no activist. I just want what the next person has.
Marc Tolentino is a senior journalism and English major.