Public Displays of Affection

There's a few things I love about New York more than I can express. One of them is that, as a gay man I'm fairly invisible. Most big cities provide that opportunity. Dan Savage very frequently gives that advice to his young gay readers who are struggling with their identity in a small town: "Move to the Big City." And it's true. Being gay here is easier. The population here is fairly inured against us. Gay people are ubiquitous in the big city, and gay friendly people are even more populous. In the areas of Chelsea, and the Village especially seeing gay couple holding hands, or kissing is just as common as seeing straight couples. That ability, to be out even while out in public is incredibly freeing and affirming, and it's spreading. As the years progress, and NYC gentrifies the area where gay couples can be comfortable is spreading. For the bold, spearheading the change, there's not really anywhere on Manhattan that isn't safe.

For a small town boy from the south who grew up in a vastly different atmosphere I feel sort of conflicted about all this. On the one hand there is nothing quite like being out and seeing acceptance and diversity displayed openly on the streets instead of just talked about. I can't help but being excited, and thrilled by it, but at the same time, that oppressed small town boy kicks into gear in the back of my head. Seeing two men holding hands makes me at once happy and scared.

When I'm dating I want to be part of that excitement. I live in a city that affords me the opportunity to hold hands with my boyfriend, and to walk down the street with him in a safe manner. I want to do those things. I want to kiss him goodbye on the subway platform, or in front of his apartment. Luckily Kid Flash is open to those possibilities. Last Friday after leaving Roller Derby and looking for some food he proudly held my hand. In the bar where we ended up, neither of us was shy about standing with our hand in the small of the other's back, or touching the other's knee at the bar. This morning after having breakfast he kissed me quickly on the street outside the entrance to the subway as we parted. All of this was exciting beyond measure. Even after being here for several years and dating several people that's a feeling that has not gone away. At the same time I have to admit that my fear response was there as well. Friday night was not a problem, it was dark, the neighborhood we were in is fairly liberal and nice. I didn't really feel all that uncomfortable, but there was still a small voice in the back of my mind telling me to watch around me, pay attention to who was nearby. This morning was a bit worse, it was daylight, we were in a much less gentrified neighborhood, and kissing ups the ante quite a bit from just holding hands. I wanted that kiss, and I wanted to be as comfortable receiving it as Kid Flash was giving it. I tried to keep that small war in my mind to a minimum, but it was hard.

The good news is, of course, that I have someone who is giving me the opportunity to feel all this, and is willing to kiss me and hold my hand, either in public or out.

2 Response to "Public Displays of Affection"

  • Mark Says:

    Dude, have you seen my mojo?

  • Julie Oakley Says:

    Look on the bright side - the fear adds a kind of excitement that dull old middle-aged married heterosexuals like me would quite enjoy! I've just been catching up with your wonderful subway sketches again afer seeing your post in EDM