For a heterosexual couple, public displays of affection are usually no big deal. Nobody is going to get upset if they see a man and woman kissing on the street. But with gays and lesbians it’s a different story.
This is something I realized right after my first relationship. My first relationship was a heterosexual one, and back then, I never felt uncomfortable showing affection in public. But when I entered a lesbian relationship it became much more complex. I felt like all eyes were on me whenever I made any move towards my partner. Even kissing my partner in a deserted part of town by the water where no one was watching felt unsafe. After all, anybody could come upon us at any minute and discover what we were doing. And who knows what would happen then? (Yes, I do admit to being a bit paranoid.)
You may think I live in the Midwest but actually I live in New York City, and even in this liberated city, it is a very rare sight for me to see two men or two women being affectionate with each other, unless it’s at a club or other kind of gay event. Turns out it’s not just me—a lot of other gay men and women are paranoid too. And it’s understandable why: you simply never know the reaction someone is going to have. Just because you live in New York, it doesn’t mean everyone is pro-gay.
And then there are some gay people who don’t like being lovey-dovey in public, and it has nothing to do with fear. They don’t want to be put on display. They believe love is for the bedroom. That’s understandable as well. Just because you are gay doesn’t mean you are comfortable with public displays of your sexuality.
If you feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection, for whatever reason, discuss it with your partner. Don’t just reject him or her without giving a reason. That’s the worst thing you could do and will lead to major tension within your relationship.
Explain why you feel wary about it. Some gays and lesbians are afraid of public displays of affection because they’ve been harassed before while kissing a partner. If that has happened to you, tell your partner about it. It will help her to understand your fear better.
In addition, it can be a problem even if both of you like PDAs. You may not mind a public display of affection once in a while, but the girlfriend who constantly wants to grab your butt in public is a problem. She is trying to say to the world: “This is my possession and you can’t have it.” Do you really want to go out with someone like that?
Whatever you do, don’t let your partner pressure you into doing something you are uncomfortable with. Don’t let her make you feel guilty, or make you feel like it’s your duty as an activist to showcase your relationship in front of straight people. It’s not your duty to do that; it’s only your duty to be happy.