Being gay isn’t a choice, a gift or a lifestyle. It’s part of who you are and while it does help make you unique, it shouldn’t set you apart from other people.
Yet gay people live very different lives compared to heterosexuals. Some of this is the result of choices made, some stem from differences forced upon them. Today, I’m going to address one of the latter.
It’s a subject that often gets overlooked, because there are ‘more important’ issues surrounding (homo)sexuality. I won’t dispute this notion. There are many things happening on a regular basis that certainly require people’s attention. However, the fact that this particular action happens daily adds weight to the problem. The problem I’m talking about is bullying.
True, bullying is quite common and happens as early as kindergarten. Even at that age, children are encouraged to ignore and rise above it. But if it happens every day and it seems you can’t make it stop, just how long can you ignore it?
I first started thinking about this a couple of months ago. I was taking a walk with a friend of mine, when we came across a straight couple who were holding hands. I involuntarily thought ‘I’ll never be able to do that’. Not because I lack someone to hold hands with, nor because we never walk anywhere, but because this couple was so care-free about it. They weren’t thinking about running into people who’d judge and behave violently towards them. They’d probably never even thought about it. They had no idea how lucky this makes them.
When I hold hands with my boyfriend, we will always be on our toes. Nine times out of ten, there will be derogatory comments from others. Complete strangers, who know nothing about us or our lives, will feel the need to express their disproval of something we couldn’t change if we wanted to.
Sometimes, though rarely, people will say something encouraging. But even then, why is there such a drive to tell us what they feel?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were talking. She commended my boyfriend and me for our resolution to keep holding hands in public. She stated it shows strength of character. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but she had a point. Getting up every day, knowing there are going to be people mocking you, judging you and occasionally becoming aggressive just because you’re there is hard. It’s not so much an issue of occasionally being harassed, it’s the fact it happens every single day. If a mountain is hit with a drop of water on the same spot every day, it will eventually create a big hole in the rocks.
There are places where my boyfriend and I unlock hands in advance (although that hasn’t made a change as of yet), knowing things can easily turn very nasty if we don’t. Sometimes, you have to choose health over ideals.
Even events created for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people aren’t complete safe. At this year’s Amsterdam Gay Pride, some individual still thought it necessary to sling a cuss word at me. This shouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did (and does), but it’s yet another example of the notion of a thoroughly unwelcoming world. For me, it represents what an immensely long way we still have to go on the road towards acceptation.
That brings us back to the happy couple I witnessed months ago. To walk hand in hand, unafraid of people shouting abuse at you – that’s what I strive for. That’s why I still hold hands with my boyfriend in public, and will continue to do so until people realise it’s the most natural thing in the world. Well, that, and because I like holding hands.