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GLBT Teens and Public Displays of Affection

Do You Kiss or Hold Hands in Front of Other People?


lesbian teens holding hands

GLBT teens don't always feel comfortable being affectionate in public.

Image (c) Made Underground

The question of PDA (or public displays of affection) is a big one for a lot of GLBT teens.

Some people simply aren't into being affectionate in public and just aren't the type to hold hands, let alone kiss if there is an audience present. That is true whether you are gay or straight.

But GLBT teens, have to consider a few things that hetero teens don't typically have to think about. Two big ones are that holding hands, kissing or even hugging a same sex partner can out you as gay. Additionally, any PDA between teens of the same sex can expose you to hostility, harassment and even violence.

As a result many GLBT people are not affectionate in public. But plenty decide that expressing their closeness to a partner in public is a key part of who they are and not something they want to hide.

One girl feels that teens just need to express affection and that doing so will help reduce prejudice.

"I'm bisexual. I also live in the most conservative part of the country--Louisiana. But, I'm the most popular girl in school. Yes, there are still some students that hate me, and there are also some students that are ridiculed because of their sexuality. But as soon as I walk into a room, they stop making fun of that person. I've walked hand in hand with my girlfriends and I've made out with them like crazy (I LOVE PDA!). But no one (besides staff) says anything."

Confidence can really go a long way towards making people accept you, but while it is great that this girl is so comfortable, not everyone will have her experience with PDA.

A big issue is the double standard. In many places, people are much more accepting of affection between two girls or women than they are of affection between two boys of men.

A gay teen explains that this is what it is like at his school.

"We have lesbian couples making out in the halway and holding hands but if two guys do that then all hell breaks loose and you hear queer and f*g and other words and possibly a beat down. I don't get how come lesbians can show pda but gay guys can't."

Such attitudes are often the result of a combination of homophobia and sexism. We live in a culture that sexualizes women more than men and many people get the message that it is sexy for two girls or women to have sex, but gross for two boys or men to do so. As a result, PDA between two females is sometimes accepted in a way that PDA between two males is not.

As one teen advises,

"As far as PDA in public, never be afraid to show it, be proud, and don't be paranoid. But, at the same time, don't be blind and/or stupid, if you're walking through some neighborhood at two am in a small town, it's probably not the best place to hold hands or steal a kiss. But, if it's broad daylight and there's people around, go for it!

I think that is pretty sound advice, but I would caution that it still might not be totally safe for teens to be affectionate in public everywhere. Bad things have happened even in broad daylight with other people are around. Trust your instincts, gauge you situation and make sure you feel safe. If something feels unsafe, then, as unfair as it is, then you might want to hold off on hand holding until you feel like you are in a more welcoming environment.

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