For the majority of people, holding hands with your partner while strolling down the road, at the shops, through the park or shopping for groceries is a normal occurrence. It is a simple and affectionate form of physical contact with your 'significant other'.
For others, it can be uncomfortable.
In a 2014 survey, an estimated three in four gay men said they avoided holding hands with their partner for fear of harassment and assault.
During the early years after I came out of the closet, I would proudly hold the hand of whomever I was dating. For me, it symbolised giving the middle finger to the parents who disowned me, the church that told me I was going to hell and the society which told me I was abnormal.
Today, however, the idea of holding a partner's hand in public terrifies me. It terrifies me when people make quick glances, believing they are discreet, or the more blatant members of the community who stare. I do not care much for adults and what they think, because they should know and understand that two consenting adults are allowed to make their own choices.
I am acutely aware and uncomfortable of the conversations that take place simply because I am holding hands with another man.
However, what terrifies me most is when children see two individuals of the same-sex holding hands, and query their parents about it. Often, I can see that the parents are caught off-guard and, inevitably, panic and fluster sets in. For reasons unknown to me, I often feel embarrassed that I have caused these parents such angst and discomfort.
Call this ingrained self-censorship if you like, but I am acutely aware and uncomfortable of the conversations that take place simply because I am holding hands with another man.
I recently took a date to the planetarium and cinema. Both places were pandemonium, there were children running wild and parents trying to keep their cool. I liked my date, and he liked me, so, naturally, we held hands. As expected, children stared and parents tried their best to explain the situation, some more successfully than others.
I just hope one day that this conversation between parent and child does not even need to take place because it no longer matters which sex you fancy.
I felt awkward and conflicted. I liked him, and like every other couple at these venues, I wanted to hold his hand, but I was conscious of the people and environment around me. When we did hold hands, I felt stares from people of all walks of life, young to old, male to female. I could tell my date felt uneasy every time I pulled my hand away when the screen lit up.
I felt bad for my date. I wanted to show him that I was interested, and that I was happy and proud to be holding his hand; however, I felt out of my comfort zone and began to panic and question myself.
As a conservative individual, I respect the ideology that parents are responsible for teaching these social constructs to their children. Therefore, I hate being the person who brings this on parents, especially in public.
Yes, children should be taught that it is perfectly fine for men to like men, and that women can like women, but I believe that this responsibility lies with the parents. I just hope one day that this conversation between parent and child does not even need to take place because it no longer matters which sex you fancy.
Truthfully, the explanation need not be complicated: 'They're two people who like each other'. I am hopeful that I will be able to rid myself of this ingrained self-censorship, and that the next generation of LGBTQ individuals never have to experience it.
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