In a Huffington Post article, Amelia, mother of a gay son, comments on the carefulness that gay men take when showing public displays of affection (PDA) around kids:
We live in the Midwest, and it’s been my experience that gay men outside an urban area’s gay grotto are very careful about showing affection — and even more careful around children. The incredibly hurtful and dangerous myth that gay men are a danger to children is well known. The gay men we have known have always been careful to avoid even the merest hint of impropriety. When around our kids, our friends who are gay rarely even hold hands, much less kiss one another.
This is a phenomenon that isn’t limited to the Midwest. For myself and friends of mine, we have discussed this very issue. While we may be more comfortable around family friends, we are still cautious to act not quite like a heterosexual couple would in our affections. In fact, we act like teenagers in front of the parents. We may hold hands or do a quick peck on the cheek or on the lips, but we try not to sit too close to one another and the affectionate touching and hugging is tamped down to a minimum.
Outside, in the general populace, even in the city, we are much more cautious. Hand holding may be okay, but kissing, even the quick pecks go non-existent when kids are in radius. We do this for two reasons. One, we don’t want our affection to bring up too many questions. In our minds, we feel that children’s natural curiosity will wind up with parents having to explain gay sex to their child. While, generally, this thought is probably ridiculous and built-up in our own minds, we just can’t shake the thought of the kind of conversation a parent will have to have to explain why, even though Jack and Tom are in love, they can’t get pregnant.
The second reason is more practical. We never know if the adults with the children in our radius are accepting, affirming or intolerant. We all fear the scenario of the outcry and anger of adults who “don’t want their kids to see that.” We fear that we will be attacked by such parents for doing something that every straight couple can do without thought or hesitation; a hello kiss, goodbye kiss, walking with your arms around each other. We fear an angry or even polite but intolerant exchange causing a scene that is uncomfortable for all, and one that reminds us, again, that even thought we are making gains for equality, we are still not equal in the eyes of some. No matter how strong you are, such attacks do have some effect on you.
But by doing this are we helping to perpetuate our own second-class status? We hesitate in our PDA because we are waiting for the tipping point to come where gay PDAs are as everyday and ho-hum as straight PDA. But do we delay that day from coming by denying ourselves PDAs? Do we hand over too much power to the intolerant by not engaging in affectionate interaction in public? And do we deny young, gay boys the opportunity, as Amelia comments, to see their possible future?
My son needs to see kisses like this one, kisses of celebration between two men in love. There are too few of them in front of his eyes, and he needs to be able to see more. He needs to be able to see that his future will one day include kisses between him and a boy he likes, and one day a boy he loves.
What are your thoughts?