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Comment: Why can’t gay couples feel safe enough to hold hands everywhere in the UK?

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  1. Interesting comment.

    Not my experience.

    I have walked hand in hand with my current bf and former boyfriends in many diverse areas of the UK (and overseas) without any hassle, on all but one occasion.

    The place I received hassle was in Brighton.

    The places I didnt included Soho, Vauxhall, Manchester, Gran Canaria, Miami, Auckland … – ah but all gay friendly places I hear you say … well yes those were …

    However, I also have walked hand in hand with a boyfriend on the Quayside in Newcastle, Croydon, Lewisham, Paris, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Brixton, Colchester, Leeds, Bradford, Havana, Berlin, Salzburg, Barcelona, Palma and other places.

    I believe part of the problem is not the reality of being offended, threatened, attacked etc – but the fear of what might happen (and in some cases embarrassment of being seen holding hands).

    The one time I had hassle was banter.

    I had no problem walking hand in hand with my bf when he left for a work trip 2 weeks ago in York.

    1. Joshua Drew 1 Apr 2012, 7:24pm

      Note: You have listed a handful of places of which you have implied are not gay friendly areas. These places you have listed are cities. Large cities. I would imagine these areas fall under the metropolitan areas referred to in the article. As for Berlin, if you feel this way about it I struggle to believe you have ever actually been. It has THE most liberal sex scene amongst an incredibly tolerant and liberal view on LGBT groups. I have never felt so comfortable in one city in my entire life. The majority of Berlin has come leaps and bounds in the past ten years. Far further than any part of the United Kingdom has and we can learn a lot from Berlin.

      The only point I will agree with you on is the fear of violence. I don’t think, anytime in the near future, that fear will ever really go away.

      1. Joshua

        Berlin is a city I have been to many times. I have explored both the scene and non-scene areas. In terms of the gay scene (whether sex based or not) it is very liberal and welcoming. It is indeed a city we can learn a great deal from in terms of tolerance and diversity. That said, not every area of Berlin is as “welcoming” as Mitte or Schöneberg.

        I listed a group of places, because they are the places that I recalled holding hands with a partner. Yes they are all cities. Yes some are known for being welcoming to gay people (although not in all districts). However, others are not known for being so supportive – indeed, when I was going out with a guy who lived in Croydon – people used to comment on me that I should not walk hand in hand with him there. I did.

        I could have mentioned walks in the countryside in the Yorkshire Dales, in Truro, in the Lake District.

        These are my experiences. They may not be yours – nonetheless I think fear is the barrier not danger.

        1. I agree with you that fear is certainly a barrier, many of us can attest to that from experiencing anti-climaxes when we came out to certain individuals who were perfectly fine with our sexuality. But the point is that there are still plenty of places where you would think twice before you do something as simple as holding hands.

          As a North East Londoner born and bred, I know I’m asking for trouble if I walked down the road holding another guys hand. In the London I know, walking into McDonalds at 1am on a weekend hand in hand with another guy would mean I might very well be going out on a stretcher – that’s not fear, that’s being street wise, just like not walking down the street counting the money in my wallet.

          Sure, there’s loads of places where you can be yourself and not just Soho et al, but if the place where you live and go about your daily business, or somewhere your straight friends rave about as a great holiday destination, isn’t one of them, then that’s cold comfort.

          1. Of course there are places that I would choose not to hold hands. I tend not to be strolling round such places regularly with a bf. Maybe that makes me fortunate.
            Equally there are places where I might usually go with a bf and expect to be comfortable holding hands and discover something happening that makes me concerned that drawing attention to myself and partner would be an unwise thing to do. Being street wise is important, regardless of orientation.
            What I am saying is that my experience is that the places where I have held hands with my current partner and former bfs have not caused me any animosity or conflict. They have not been restricted to Soho or other classically gay friendly districts, nor to urban areas.
            My experience is that (with an element of being street wise and cautious where necessary) that the fear of impact from holding hands is the barrier not the reaction that might occur.
            I have held hands in various parts of London in the early hours to good experience

      2. Berlin? Yeah if you’re white

        1. Another stereotype, I have gay Muslim and non gay black friends who work there and they all said they love the city

  2. It will be safe once the media works out how natural it is for us and presents it to the world constantly. Right now there is this wave of “being different from straights” and that’s what looks like it’s not going to subside. When the media can get past that, the country will get past that, and you’ll be able to walk anywhere. Some say we’re there but I’m not one of them.

  3. Ben Amponsah 1 Apr 2012, 5:58pm

    Lovely article and I kind of agree with Stu-it is necessary for us to continue to push the ‘perceived’ boundaries so that eventually walking hand in hand in all areas is seen as acceptable (maybe not in my lifetime though I will admit)

  4. The term geographical gayness is an interesting one. I have only just finished completing my research dissertation on public displays of affection, and the attitude and behaviour variations between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships (only handed it in on Friday!), and I definetly found evidence of ‘geographical gayness’.

    I had a sample of 484 people who identified as either gay/lesbian, straight or bisexual, and one of the biggest things i noticed in my data analysis was the change that occured within same-sex relationships when placed outside of a heteronormative environment. For example, in a busy high street around 60-70% wouldn’t feel comfortable exhibiting any sort of affection towards a same-sex partner, and yet when asked whether they would in an area they perceived to be predominantly LGBT-friendly (such as a gay club or pride parade) the level of those who felt comfortable shot up to around 88%.

    I did think about releasing the results if peeps were interested in themmm.

    1. Martin

      I think that it would be very interesting to see the results of your research.

      I do wonder how much of the lack of willingness to show affection in a (perceived) heteronormative environment is connected to the perceptions of the couple involved opposed to the reality of any risk (whether of harm or embarrassment). Almost along the lines of the reality of crime is often much less than the perceptions that lead to a fear of crime? Did you establish any evidence or come to any conclusions about why people behaved in such a manner?

      1. Unfortunately, my research only used quantitative methods for data collection due to a very strict word limit. It has, however, given me various areas to investigate further that would need qualitative methods to investigate the attitude variations further.

        I asked about how the possibility of a negative reaction affects their willingness to show affection. 13% stated it had no affect, 25% stated it made them uncomfortable but they still showed affection anyway, and the rest reported the possibility as preventing them showing affection (ranging from some occasions to all the time).

        When asked whether they had experienced a negative reaction, 46.7% reported they had, and 53.3% stated they never had, so the fear does seem to be quite higher than the experience rate. However, the experience rate is still considerably high considering Britain’s portrayal as a ‘tolerant’ society.

        1. Do you intend doing more research?

          It sounds like an interesting area to pursue.

          I suspected there to be a higher figure for those who had not experienced a negative reaction.

          The fear of something happening often is a far more emotionally impacting factor than the reality of risks.

          1. I am hoping to complete a PhD on the topic (or a related topic) in a few years time, but that will not begin until 2015 onwards due to my academic commitments being tied up elsewhere until then.

            It’s definetly an interest I want to investigate further though in the near future. :)

          2. Good luck! Its certainly something that I think is worth understanding more.

  5. Gemma Eastwood 1 Apr 2012, 6:16pm

    I agree with you somewhat but I do think being who you are and who i am is and some parts should be accepted as Brighton, in which i live very close to, is liberal and has a huge gay pride celebration as you know Ethan (it’s where i discovered you and the boys and Becky ;)) However 10 minutes down the road in Lewes, It’s not so accepted, although people aren’t attacked, there aren’t liberal people. For the 12 years i’ve lived there i’ve seen 1 couple, an old friend (who doesn’t hold hands) and me. I wish it was world widely accepted, it’s natural and why should it be a struggle to deliver the news of being LGBT.
    Being LGBT is wonderful, although i’m noy widely ouyt yet… I hope to be soon :) x

    1. When I used to live in Shoreham, there was a wonderful gay couple who I used to meet for drinks with my ex. They were from Lewes and didn’t care where they were – if they were in the mood to hold hands they would. They did that several times in Lewes and in Arundel on nights out. It was sweet and romantic. My ex at the time was not keen on public signs of affection by himself (even in Brighton or Soho etc) but he recognised that it was beautiful to see another couple so much in love with each other.

  6. chris lowcase 1 Apr 2012, 6:57pm

    yeah its still sad to see biggotry all over the country. it seems most of the areas known for less friendly towards gay people are the same that have high crime stats. whenever i get hassle its off some kid on a bmx, and usually in an area with high crime stats. im not trying to say criminals are homophobes but just another reason police on the street would improve these areas.

    id also speculate that ignorance could be dealt with by a decent educational system. (understatement)

  7. “I think we’ll have to make do with Soho Square when the sun is out, make do” – yeah right – let’s all cower in fear and live in a ghetto. Fella, this is not the experience of most gays of all ages up and down the country – we’re not content to “make do” – those who have come before us who really had to fight in the 70s and 80s did so for us to not cower and “make do”. They made sacrifices so we could live free and open lives so just get on with it and when we see bigotry in any shape or form we challenge it – so we’re not pushed back into the sidelines of society.

    1. Absolutely. We have to challenge and confront the issues that cause us to have fear. My experience is when we do there is little likelihood of experiencing any negative reaction.
      As more people are willing to show affection to their partner, so society become normalised to it, so the risk of confrontation and a negative experience weakens and so more people feel comfortable in being honest in expressing their affection.
      If we take the risk and are honest in displaying affection, usually we will find that the worst reaction we would get is a glance – and more often than not a positive and friendly smile and encouragement. If we then feel confident in expressing that affection we are more likely to do it again, more people will see it and it creates a culture of tolerance and acceptance and tackles fear of what might happen (which is often not grounded in fact).
      Berlin and San Francisco did not become places comfortable to be open in, by people being frightened to be themselves.

  8. Dyaln James 1 Apr 2012, 8:04pm

    I live in quite a little town called Ashford in Kent and its quite a homophobic town, growing up here i have had nothing but trouble with narrow minded people, and wouldn’t dare walk down the street holding hands with my partner. Although i dream of the day that i can! I hate the fact that i have to travel nearly two hours to London or Brighton just to feel excepted or to be able to walk through the town centre and not get abuse! unfortunately that’s the way it is. The way i look at it is, 10 years ago it was less accepting, now its nearly accepted so maybe in another 10 years it will be more accepting! I think that the government need to teach about gay awareness in secondary schools so that the next generation are educated about diversity in the community and don’t have the same mind set as our older generations do and maybe one day i will feel more comfortable to walk hand in hand with my man down the street! :)

  9. radical53 1 Apr 2012, 8:15pm

    We have had this debate here as well.

    We call it “QUEERPHOBIA” where you feel you cannot be gay outside your area or gay community.

    But it also reflects society as a whole. It has still to come to terms with us as being part of society. This is going to take time. Probably another generational change.

    It also needs to find some balance where you do not lose completely your identity/ sexuality and who you are.

    But certain members in the gay community would love us to lose this, especially our sexuality so we can become more inclusive and part of society. Bring back Oppression.

    You are warned.

    1. I’m not sure I entirely get where you are coming from in terms of the comment bring back oppression. Can you explain? Intrigued where that argument is seated.

      I do think there are aspects of a change in perceptions (both from individuals who are uncertain of expressing their affection openly and from wider society). That may take a generation or more for some people or segments of society, but probably much less in others.

      We need to be honest about who we are. That includes expressing ourselves and not being forced to surpress how we feel we ought to express ourselves either by wider society or by some elements of the LGBT communities.

    2. I agree. Some people put fitting in over individuality.

  10. Very interesting article. Its not a metropolitan versus shires issue though – I’m very comfortable holding my partner’s hand in say Warwick or Cambridge or sleepy villages in Sussex but I wouldn’t dream of doing so in many areas of London such as the Muslim East End, or say Tottenham or Peckham.

    1. Yeah don’t try tottenham, was kissing there got bottled and you get called chi chi man all the time from grandparents to grandchildren. As for islamic london, forget it, and it will get much worse .I would definitely feel less oppressed in little villages in norfolk etc.

      1. I agree to an extent, but I lived in Peckham for two years and on two occasions saw a couple kissing along the Old Kent road

    2. I was brought up in Peckham to believe that everyone outside Peckham (particularly country people) were racist and bigoted. I then went to Great Yarmouth and saw two guys with their arms round each other, and was surprised that one could do that in the street without running the risk of getting mobbed. Lots of kids at my Peckham primary school talked about hating and wanting to kill gays, and the adults weren’t much better. I was pleasantly surprised at how tolerant ‘middle England’ was in comparison. While it may not be Sweden, middle England is far from the medieval attitudes towards gays that prevail in some more ‘multicultural’ areas.

  11. gattagiudecca 1 Apr 2012, 8:39pm

    This is a really interesting article – one that we can all relate to. Especially the ‘you are asking for it’ if u get beaten up whilst holding hands in an area unfriendly to gay people. This ‘you are asking for it’ belief is common amongst gay people too. There have been numerous stories of gay people getting beaten up or even murdered and shockingly lots of comments on Pinknews are along the ‘they were asking for it’ lines. For me it’s not just about fear of being beaten up. It’s realisation that you are never going to be accepted. Example: I used to live in a smallish town with my partner. On the surface we were accepted by everyone. Then came Halloween. Being the stereotypical rich pinkpound couple (joke), we festooned our house in Halloweenery. The streets were crawling with kids. Not one came to the door. Clearly parents were too scared of the 2 gays to allow their kids to come to the door. We moved out not long after to a more ‘gay friendly’ area’.

  12. Sinnysinsins 1 Apr 2012, 9:22pm

    Walked hand in hand with dudes in Belfast with no hassle.
    Do not see the point of this article.

    1. The point of the article is about your personal perception of your behaviour and therefore safety in a particular situation or area. We shouldnt change who we are or behave different but the general situation seems to be that gay people do change depending on their surroundings. Society has gone a long way to “accept” our lifestyles but this article highlights that while its generally accepted in the UK its not universally accepted…. which is needs to be.

      1. “lifestyles”? I disagree , I don’t think public displays of affection by same sex people is acceptable in the uk, barely tolerated mostly ,and just in gay ghettos or leafy , white middle class, phoney liberal areas.

        1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 3:34pm

          I agree, it’s not a lifestyle, it should be a right.
          I disapprove of any couple with their tongues down each others throats in public, but I see no reason why arms round each other, holding hands or a peck on the cheek by anyone, to anyone, should cause any offence whatsoever, and personally, that’s exactly what I do, any time, anywhere.

          Don’t make your problem my problem.

          1. If theres a problem for gay people to be openly affectionate in public in the uk , then it is your problem. Maybe you misunderstood my post , i was giving clarity that i believe the general british population at best, tolerate same sex affection in public. Personally, i’m not bothered if people have sex on the street.

  13. Hodge Podge 1 Apr 2012, 9:26pm

    Since I get insulted on the street just for having ginger hair here in Wigan, it’s going to be a while until I can hold hands with a bloke or wear a skirt.

  14. This interesting article reminds me of a quote from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which seems quite apt….

    Bernadette: [to Felicia] It’s funny. We all sit around mindlessly slagging off that vile stink-hole of a city. But in its own strange way, it takes care of us. I don’t know if that ugly wall of suburbia’s been put there to stop them getting in, or us getting out. Come on. Don’t let it drag you down. Let it toughen you up. I can only fight because I’ve learnt to. Being a man one day and a woman the next isn’t an easy thing to do.

    1. Priscilla is indeed a great film. I watched it the other day, and was astounded when I realised it’s almost 20 years old.

      I’d like to think we’ve come a fair way in terms of acceptance in 20 years. But it seems we still have our “safe” gay areas. I think the only way that changes is if we all challenge lack of acceptance outside gay areas. It may feel a bit uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.

  15. If I hide, then I become invisible. Invisible people don’t have any rights. I understand why some people rather not demonstrate affection on conservative areas, but conservatives need to understand we are not stepping back. We will not let them have it their way just because they are going to look at us funny.

    If danger is perceived I highly suggest not to show any affection to avoid any situation where violence might come up. But it’s not ok the fact that there are only certain areas where we can be free without fearing. In order to change that, we need to become visible and let others know it’s too many of us to win that fight.

    By becoming invisible we also bring harm to LGBT youth. Those living in conservative areas will continue to repress their sexuality, they will continue to think of themselves as freaks. They think there’s no one else like them. Soon they start hating themselves for being gay and hating others who are gay. Invisibility is no option.

  16. I think this issue ultimately concerns the fear of violence. There are certain places, particularly within inner urban areas, where one would not feel safe holding hands with someone of the same sex. This is primarily a cultural issue. Blatant homophobia is still rife in certain groups in the UK, particularly among certain religious groups and nationalities.

    It would be interesting though to see how heterosexual couples feel about holding hands, and whether that is also perceived as an issue in certain areas – albeit for different reasons.

  17. The whole debate reminds me of an episode of the US version of Queer As Folk. The very camp character Emmet becomes a mini celebrity for having a “queer eye” slot on the news. Brian, the “straight acting” gay informs him all of the people that claim to adore him only do so because he is, in their minds, a eunuch.

    I’ve heard it said countless times, “I don’t have a problem with gay people, I just don’t want to see it.” A completely oxymoronic statement but it does seem a popular one.

    It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation. If you deliberately choose to tailor your behaviour out of fear of reprisal then you’re just contributing to the problem. If you do hold hands, it’s seen as being deliberately inflammatory and you’re causing trouble.

    Given that we can’t win either way I’ve always just done what I’ve wanted. If someone thinks I’m causing trouble, I really don’t care. If they want to get so incensed that they break the law, the law is on our side, so I’ll go with that for now :)

  18. British culture and society in general are still deeply racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc, the whole nasty lot … that’s the reason minorities feel uncomfortable. That’s nothing to be proud of.

    1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 12:42am

      I wouldn’t restrict it to Britain, in fact I would say that Britain is actually one of the most tolerant countries in the world; OK, we are far from perfect, but I actually can’t think of anywhere better.

      1. Reality is, by being intolerant, Britain is setting an example, and some other cultures model themselves in this intolerance and are becoming as intolerant as Britain is. The British tolerance is only a myth. The empire is still spreading its intolerance to many corners of the World, despite the false image of tolerance being promoted. Deeds are needed, not only words.

        1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 9:29am

          Firstly, what Empire? Most of them went their own ways years ago, so you cant blame us if that is the route they wish to choose. Britain is multicultural, or at least multi-ethnic, and at least tries to accommodate equality where it can. Compared to giants like the US that still want evolution banned in schools, and have organisations like Prop-8 being funded millions I think we are way ahead of the game.

          Just read some of the world news on here and compare it against the UK, and then tell me that we aren’t ahead of the pack. I live in a quiet West Country town and there are at least half a dozen gay guys in my local pub and nobody round here really gives a tinkers as long as one is respectful of others. Having moved here from East London, I can assure you if I held hands with my BF here, we might get the odd quizzical glance, but there we would probably get beaten up.

          1. Chickens always come home to roost but some of Lizze’s subjects aren’t having any of it. As expected, they’ve been lobotomised to dish it out but can’t take it in. Letting go of the empire means taking responsibility for it, not simply dismissing or denying any of its consequences. If you approve of Britain’s past, present or future wrongdoings, you have to blame yourself. There’s something rotten in the state of Pleasantville, but for some people the awful stench is an irresistible perfume.

        2. The EMPIRE!

          I have often thought that you live in the past, Beberts … but that takes the biscuit!

          1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 3:40pm

            Beberts probably still has maps of the world on his walls with big pink areas all over it, whilst he mutters on about the loss of Rhodesia and the war in French Indo-China.

            Bloody fuzzy-wuzzies don’t like it up ‘em you know!

        3. “Empire”

          Do you mean the Commonwealth?

          As for as I am aware this is still going strong

          1. The empire ended a long time ago. The Commonwealth is still alive (and kicking to an extent!).

            The Canada Act of 1982 meant the UK has no involvement in Canadian constitutional affairs, similar acts for Australia, New Zealand etc have also taken place.

            The use of the words British Empire have only historical significance – the only current relevance is for things such as KBEs, CBEs etc.

            To refer to the Empire is living probably back in the 1950s or earlier (which sounds about right for Beberts)

          2. The empire can take many forms. Expecting political submission is one of them.

          3. The use of Empire as an expression particularly when termed “British Empire” is telling of the antiquity of the person making the comments.

          4. Clearly your comment was antiquated and repeatedly linked the word British to Empire. Outdated, outmoded and irrelevant

          5. The World has roughly 7 billion people, and most of them know what the British Empire should be: antiquated, outdated, outmoded and irrelevant, but some people are trying to promote the idea that Britain has nothing to do with the word British, all the while still playing the empire game.

          6. You believe that if you want, Beberts ….

            Meanwhile, back in the real world …

          7. In many corners of the “real World” darling, if you haven’t noticed, you are still living under the legacy of institutional homophobia promoted by your beloved empire.

          8. You see, there you go again, making assumptions …

            I find the whole concept of Empire repellant – and your insistance of the use of the word infantile.

            So as for “my beloved Empire” – try again!

          9. Finding the concept of empire repellant does not mean one is against it. You appear to be in denial and afraid of having to face it. That’s why you just deny the subject, such as: “the empire ended a long time ago” … when in fact it’s still very much alive and still making a lot of damage all around the World.

          10. To be categorically clear.

            Empire building in terms of colonialism is repellant, I am completely against it and I am not in denial about it.

            However, you are in denial about living in the past.

          11. Spanner1960 4 Apr 2012, 9:27am

            Beberts: “If you approve of Britain’s past, present or future wrongdoings..”

            What about what the British Empire actually created? If it wasn’t for the British, places like India and Pakistan would still be living in mud huts with no roads or railways.

      2. Beberts – you need to travel a little pal – having lived in the US and Spain, the UK is clearly, from a social point of view, on of the better models of tolerance. Perhaps, you can offer a society we might use as a model for an example?

  19. Things are changing, and changing for the better. It’s just that the changes happen at glacial speed.

    Although you say that there are parts of Manchester where you wouldn’t feel comfortable holding your boyfriend’s hand, there are many other parts of the city where you would. Many years ago, I was a student in Manchester; and I certainly didn’t feel safe (let alone comfortable) holding my boyfriend’s hand anywhere in the city. That was the era when Manchester’s chief constable talked about “homosexuals swirling around in a cesspit of their own making”. At that time, Canal Street was mainly derelict and boarded up; now it’s probably the trendiest place on the planet, and all because GLBT folk are so visible there.

    At the current rate of progress, you’ll be happy to hold your boyfriend’s hand in Cheetham Hill in just another 70 or 80 years. I hope you can wait.

  20. Lumi Bast 2 Apr 2012, 3:18am

    It’s extremely sad that it’s unsafe for some homosexual couples to hold hands or present themselves as a couple in public. I would like to be able to hold hands with or give a kiss to a woman I’m in a relationship with. I can even be targeted for my androgynous appearance, let alone that. I have zero issue with PDA, it’s just I’m a little afraid of how people would react- I don’t want to be physically injured or killed.

    I don’t know how it is in the UK, but outside of major US gay friendly cities, and even there, it’s not safe at all. Especially in the South.

    1. Lumi Bast 2 Apr 2012, 3:23am

      Depending on the location I’m in, I’d just hold hands with a woman though. I can handle people yelling at me to a certain extent, I just don’t want to get hurt :P.

      1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 9:41am

        I find that rather odd. I often see two or more girls holding hands or hugging, and they aren’t even lesbians. Women tend to be much more ‘touchy-feely’ than men in general and I was of the assumption that it was generally acceptable behaviour worldwide for women to do that. However, with men, that’s an entirely different ball game…

        1. Girls yes. Not women over say 30? though. Especially ones who, as Lumi describes, dress androgynously. And girls don’t walk round the supermarket holding hands once they get past adolescence. I think because homosexuality is more open now, a lot more lesbians are noticed than would have been before. And a lot of the time it’s by people who have a problem with it.

          In a lot of places in Southern Asia men can hold hands, but that’s because it’s custom (e.g. Bangladesh) and is seen as our equivalent of slapping another guy on the back. Thus a lot of gay men can go unnoticed there but he acknowledgement that homosexuality even exists is nil, so assuming that that those men would have any kind of physical or affectionate relationship just doesn’t happen. They’re still hiding, just in a different way.

  21. GingerlyColors 2 Apr 2012, 8:36am

    People want to play it safe and therefore you will rarely see two men holding hands except in gay areas. It is a good idea to be streetwise, we can’t all walk round with rear-view mirrors fitted to our heads.
    Having said that I saw the two gay ballroom dancers, the Sugar Dandies audition in Britain’s Got Talent and they were well received by the audience and the judges including Simon Cowell. Not all that long ago the audience would have been baying for blood. They have been put through to be selected for the semi-finals and I look forward to seeing them then.

    1. I agree with the general thrust of your comment, Gingerlycolors!

      I do agree that society has moved on in leaps and bounds over the past 20-30 years and more.

      The dancers on BGT been welcomed with enormous warmth from (probably) all of the audience in the theatre. Regular gay characters in soaps being welcomed with strong support from the audience. Openly gay sports stars, politicians, journalists, doctors, police officers, mechanics, teachers, builders, chefs, bank managers, gardeners, factory workers etc – whether well known, or known in their circle of friends – has led to an increased acceptance of gay people in society. The attitude I see is people saying (whatever their own orientation) either they are not bothered about the orientation of anyone else or that they welcome that gay people can be open.

      I slightly disagree with you about not seeing two guys holding hands often. I honestly don’t see that many straight or gay couples hold hands but I see some of each.

  22. Being tolerated is not the same as being accepted. London, will always be dangerous due to poorer uneducated people coming to do the rubbish jobs. Churches and the free papers in london are our enemies.

    1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 9:35am

      I agree, but tolerance paths the road to acceptance. These things are never going to happen overnight, and I think it’s probably more of a generational thing. When I was a kid, there was one black kid in my school, these days there might be some with only a handful of white ones. It’s a matter of growing up and understanding and accommodating.

      The biggest problem is the religionists because they refuse to do so and follow their 2000 year old scriptures to the word. Hopefully though, they will be seen for what they are by generations to come and just fizzle out, at least in this country. Somehow though, I doubt it, so we are always going to be disapproved of by some, that’s just the way it is.

      1. I would rather have acceptance, and in many many cases that is what I and other gay people get, day in, day out in the UK.

        In some cases there is mere tolerance. It is a stepping stone away from hostility, rejections or antipathy; and towards acceptance.

        Yes, there are still cases of complete intolerence and blatant hostility. They tend to be vocal, although rarely powerful (other that the delusions of grandeur that they have about their own influence and power). The volume of their hostility can be unsettling and can feed the fire of fear of a reaction to being openly expressive by holding hands etc..

        We are a long way down the track to where we were 100, 50, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. We need to challenge homophobia and antipathy (of course, with an element of streetwise attitudes – although not allowing fear to control us).

        I agree its a pathway to acceptance, and to be welcomed. Lots of people who seek real acceptance and equality (which I do) only focus on the goal …

        1. … forgetting about the journey that has already been travelled to reach the situation where there is acceptance in some places and tolerance in many others. They forget the starting point and the many changes (both legal and cultural) that have taken place to ensure the level of LGBT freedom and support there is in UK society today. That should not stop us keeping our eyes on the goal. We should always strive for real and meaningful equality and acceptance. We need to be honest with ourselves though and recognise the successes there have been and not let fear trap us, when the reality (in most cases) is that there is acceptance or tolerance across most areas of the UK. Those that do not support, endorse, encourage or tolerate LGBT people are a minority (unfortunately often vocal).

      2. I would rather have acceptance, and in many many cases that is what I and other gay people get, day in, day out in the UK.

        In some cases there is mere tolerance. It is a stepping stone away from hostility, rejections or antipathy; and towards acceptance.

        Yes, there are still cases of complete intolerence and blatant hostility. They tend to be vocal, although rarely powerful (other that the delusions of grandeur that they have about their own influence and power). The volume of their hostility can be unsettling and can feed the fire of fear of a reaction to being openly expressive by holding hands etc..

        We are a long way down the track to where we were 100, 50, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. We need to challenge homophobia and antipathy (of course, with an element of streetwise attitudes – although not allowing fear to control us).

        I agree its a pathway to acceptance, and to be welcomed. Lots of people who seek real acceptance and equality (which I do) only focus on the goal …

        1. Apologies for double post (the continuation is on the original message above)

          1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 3:30pm

            Somebody on this site really doesn’t seem to like you.

          2. @Spanner1960

            It seems that way. I have a sneaking suspicion who it is – but hey I have my opinions and thats what comment forums are all about – expressing them.

    2. Yawn. Being gay is still seen as something weird and off the norm. In cosmopolitan areas like central London there are lots of weird and off the norm looking people so the public tends to be less reactionary

    3. Yawn. Being gay is still seen by many as something weird and off the norm. In cosmopolitan areas like central London there are lots of weird and off the norm looking people, so the public generally tends to be less reactionary to two men holding hands walking down the street

      1. Weird looking people in london? yea right, maybe in the 80s. And if someone does look anyway alternative or different , londoners are very reactionary in a negative capacity. As for two blokes holding hands walking down oxford street , been there done it, got called dirty batty bois a lot.

        1. Last time I walked along the street in Hackney with my boyfriend, hand in hand, I got smiles and encouraging words from passers by

          1. Yes of course you did, if i mentioned at what time, and what area i was in being homophobically abused , i’m sure you were there ten minutes later(in your head anyway) holding hands with some bloke and everyone loved you lol! you are desperate to attempt to persuade others to your delusion..Was this you or were you in fantasy zone being one of your multiple personae, which you were exposed as having many alias on these threads, its hard to take anything you say as truth.

          2. @rapture

            Whatever!

            I am more than comfortable in who I am, and have freely admitted and apologised for errors.

            I know that I walked happily hand in hand along the street in Hackney with my boyfriend, without a problem.

            You choose not to believe me. I know its the truth. Do I care if you don’t believe me? Not at all.

            Do I resort to the childish petulent comments you have just made? No

            Do I admit when I am wrong? Yes

            I used to think you occasionally had something worth saying, now I realise how mistaken I was.

          3. @stu ,childish? ironic coming from someone who has multiple alias on these threads and has nothing to offer but your obsessional need to monopolise these boards. Clearly , you are very concerned with every post on here, these threads are your 24/7 existence after all, judging by how long you spend on here, i’m surprised you get the chance to walk with your “boyfriend” hand in hand to so many places, but then i’m not as naive as some on here and say you just spout bull.

          4. @rapture

            When I made a mistake I admitted it, before it was even noticed by anyone.

            I apologised and regretted what I did.

            I was big enough and man enough to admit my shortcomings.

            Again I dont care whether you believe in my story or not. Its the truth. It doesnt fit in with your rheotric that there are no-go zones for gay people, and you know what I think thats fantastic as it helps demonstrate that the fear your rhetoric helps perculate and fester is just that – lies and fear.

          5. @rapture

            For the record, up until Saturday I had not been on here for a week .. why, because I had been earning a living responding to emergency calls and serving the public. Yeah, I am back at work (reduced hours but back there)

            So your needling and childish attacks are nothing to me.

            You are nothing to me

          6. “you are nothing to me” your words are worthless clearly ,as you convey by your seething, desperation to respond to my comments, if i meant nothing to you then why are you still trying to engage me with your petty issues. You are delusional, a fantasist , just 5 second entertainment for me but now you have reached tedium by being soo tragic, and you definitely do not serve any public by trolling here.

          7. Well, I dont need your approval, rapture and nor do I want it

            Trolling … oh is that what you think of me, how funny … untrue, humerous though …

            As for coming of here to do service, no thats not my intention – I come on here to debate. I leave serving people to when Im working.

            I gather you dont like me, the feelings mutual – but I find you entertaining from your little man mentality, and if you’re not a little man, well you certainly come across as one.

          8. @stu Thats right stu attempt to plagerise my content in above post.you come across as a very disturbed individual creating the make believe world so many of your ilk can, by creating other personae , false “personal “stories on the internet. I’m just surprised how gullible some regular commentaters are on here, that actually tolerate your tripe , seeing your wholly false claims as worthy of debate.. You need a psychiatrist. I do so hope you get help and a life.

  23. Let’s form a ‘Visibility Group’ with groups of say 4 LGBT people ‘zapping’ areas. Have a same-sex couple hold hands and walk through a targeted area with the other 2 following discretely monitoring what’s happening and reporting the zap back on (probably) Facebook. If there’s any homophobia there’s 4 people ready and (probably trained) to confront it.

    1. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 9:36am

      In this country, we call that “Entrapment”.

      1. The only way to change attitudes is to confront them head-on. If you don’t like my idea Spanner1960, what is your suggestion?

        1. Living our lives normally, holding hands with our partners when we feel its something we want to do (and our sense of being street wise does not warn us off). Continue to demonstrate that being LGBT is normal.

          Not vigilantism ….

        2. Spanner1960 2 Apr 2012, 3:29pm

          Precisely as Stu suggests.
          You don’t go around trying to force people’s hands. You simply do what comes naturally, and no differently than any straight couple.

  24. hollyhock140 2 Apr 2012, 12:32pm

    As an old man who grew up in London when being gay was illegal, got married, came out, divorced, lived with a guy, then lived with another guy for 20 years and got a c.p. I have been on a roller coaster ride of antipathy and acceptance.

    i was the first person to come out at my central London council workplace in the 80′s and went on loads of marches waving placards and confronting this and that.

    However, the simple matter of holding hands was uncomfortable to me because it could only be used as a political statement. If I publicly held hands I was constantly on edge to see if anyone was going to react, which then killed the warm purpose of holding hands in the first place.

    So as I have grown older I have just got used to not holding hands in public and i suspect I would feel uncomfortable doing so now. This may be a view shared by other older retired activists.

    1. Similar life history Hollyhock. When my fella and I are out and about (15years together) we generally feel comfortable. I greet him with a kiss when I meet him or leave him in public. We have never had any problems staying at hotels, holding hands at concerts, in the cinema etc etc. But generally we do not hold hands when we are out walking. I would like to more but no matter what anyone says it IS a question of being cautious and streetwise. Compton Street is fine. The Marais in Paris is more than fine. My saddest experience is that when we have had uncomfortable comments from public – only a few – they have all been from black men and women.

      1. I had a similar experience in Amsterdam 12 years ago. No one batted an eye lid to both myself and my German boyfriend at the time. However, the homophobic comments that we got were from White British people. I suppose we all have different experiences.

  25. Iain Maxstead 2 Apr 2012, 12:35pm

    My partner and I walk hand in hand or arm in arm most places ! not because we wish to gain a reaction but because after 23 years we dont care what others think, we are happy and we go where we wish to.. we live in Kent these days and yep we are pretty much the only gays in the village but its never been an issue in fact the only place we have ever had a comment made that we heard was in Brighton ” Oh aint that sweet I hope when I am as old as those two I am still in love and want to hold your hand” that did make us chuckle the chicken was about 18 …. I to hope he does still feel the love of a good man as I do x

    1. Nice one! Doom and gloom existences on here make for depressing reading. A nice (and balanced) commentary on, probably, most gay experiences. May you hold hands forever!

  26. I get what people are saying about making a stand, not being invisible, standing up and being counted yada yada yada. But sometimes I want to hold my wife’s hand just because I love her, not to make a political statement. So there are areas where I would choose not to do that for fear of reprisal. But I also acknowledge that the fear of reprisal is often out of proportion to the actual chance of it happening.

    Balance is what is needed.

    1. Sarah

      I never hold hands with my boyfriend nor did I with any of my ex’s to make a political stand. I do it because I love him and because I loved them.

      I do it because I am proud to be seen with my bf and associated with him. I do it as a sign to each other of our love for one another. I do it because its what I want to do, and its what feels right.

      I recognise that a side effect is that it means I am not invisible and introduces an element of normality about two guys walking hand in hand to some in society. I have received encouragement from strangers for doing so. It is standing up and being counted, but thats not the reason I choose to. I do so because I love my man.

  27. Let’s face it, there is NO place on earth so liberal or accepting that most gay people feel as open and accepted in displaying public affection as straight couples do. Not even in Brighton nor San Francisco nor Amsterdam. NOWHERE! The problem is, most gay people have no idea what it feels like to be FULLY and COMPLETELY accepted in society or in public because they have never REALLY experienced it. Because of this we come to believe that sneaking a kiss when nobody’s looking, and not being assaulted, is equal acceptance. We won’t achieve full acceptance until we can kiss in line at the grocery store, or even act out inappropriately in ANY situation and receive the same response from those around us that straight people do. When straight people are going overboard with public affection, most people just politely ignore it and don’t say anything. I don’t promote over the top PDA, but I think when it happens with gay people they should receive the same consideration as straights.

    1. Staircase2 2 Apr 2012, 4:25pm

      Well said, Hayden! :o)

  28. Staircase2 2 Apr 2012, 4:14pm

    The thing that you aren’t getting is the historical context for all these things.

    Perhaps its harder for someone younger to grasp given how many things appear to have come to fruition during the past 10 years (which may account for the largest part of a younger person’s life).

    Holding hands, public displays of affection (PDAs), kissing – these are all things which in the oddest sense are the last bastions of sexual liberation for Lesbian & Gay couples & groups.

    Its the ‘do what you want but don’t thrust it in my face’ bollocks.

  29. Staircase2 2 Apr 2012, 4:16pm

    Firstly, these things will change in time – that part is inevitable as we become increasingly more visible & commonplace. Historically in the UK this is actually mostly a problem for Gay men – as it has long been more acceptable for women to show affection to each other in public without any undue attention.

    Similarly there are many places in the world where it is acceptable for me to do the same; holding hands or kissing close friends or relatives in public – and this being among straight men…

    People should check out the Day In Hand Campaign: http://www.adayinhand.com/

  30. Peter & Michael 2 Apr 2012, 4:20pm

    We just come back from a week-end in Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the ‘straightest ‘ places in the UK, the hotel we stayed in was very welcoming, the problems we had when holding hands (my partner has cancer), was when these straight couples holding hands together trying to charge between us. We got jostled a few times, some laughed, pointing, and homophobic comments, but our time together is very precious, and these people should not judge a book by its cover. We did feel let down over our experience in Stratford-upon-Avon, perhaps the Council should promote fairness to all, and not exclude minority peoples from visiting and spending money in their town. What would Shakespeare have thought?

    1. Spanner1960 4 Apr 2012, 9:36am

      Maybe you should write to them.
      As a resident of the Cotswolds, I can assure you most people around here are more than accommodating, and I suspect your bad experience is more with other visitors than it was from the locals.

      Unfortunately Stratford is something of a tourist trap as it gets a lot of people coming in from Birmingham and the Midlands, and I would say it was more likely those people that unfortunately tainted your day.

  31. Staircase2 2 Apr 2012, 4:23pm

    Historically in the UK the issue of Gay men was perceived as one of sexual perversion – whereby people wanted to sweep the issue out of the way, under the carpet.

    Now we are finally being accepted (ironically) in a non-sexualised kind of way – ie in the same way that married straight couples have traditionally been viewed.

    Noone generally thinks of sex when straight couples kiss each other hello or hold hands walking thru the street – although of course there are certain places around the world who are actually hung up about that in the same way that they were in the UK about Gay men…(witness the couples arrested in Saudi for kissing on the beach…!)

    Things change by visibility – the more visible these things are/become the less consternation they will cause among the more uptight and sexually repressed members of our society.

    Sexual repression is key in understanding the problems of social acceptance facing all sexual minorities…

  32. Homo occidens 2 Apr 2012, 4:49pm

    Great article and something I have also thought about. We have the same problem in the in US, you “can be gay” in the gay ghetto and you can be careful everywhere else. Yeah, it’s true of even cities like NY and SF, not as enlightened as you might think. In North American, the one city I find very gay friendly is Montreal, Canada. I feel very safe walking hand in hand and even kissing my boyfriend anywhere in the city. It’s pretty cool to feel so free and just like everyone else. Plus, those Anglo/frog boys are just so hot…oh sorry that’s off topic. Cheers!

  33. Staircase2 2 Apr 2012, 4:54pm

    “Soho wouldn’t really be Soho if it weren’t something of a refuge for LGBT individuals, it would just be a cakey, gelato haven with a few brothels for good measure.”

    Its historically incorrect to say this, as Soho has ALWAYS been a vibrant and mixed community over the centuries and will continue to be so – after all, its only had a sizeable gay visibility for a relatively short period of time (coming to fruition as we know it now over the past 20 years)

    If anything, given the decline in recent years in the number of people using the gay pubs in the area, it is very likely that Soho will soon shift once again

    1. Spanner1960 4 Apr 2012, 9:30am

      “Vibrant”? Not the word I would have used for it 30 years ago.
      Try “sleazy, dirty, crime-ridden, rat-infested cesspit full of cheap clip joints and dirty hookers” would be slightly closer to the mark.

      Soho has really turned around since then, and the gay village is just part of that reconstruction.

  34. There’s certainly such a thing as geographical homophobia. I lived in Peckham for 11 years. I am not gay, and was quite detached from the wider Peckham community, but I still picked up on the vicious homophobia there. I never once saw a gay couple holding hands, and I’m not surprised. At primary school, the worst thing you could be was gay. Kids would often say that they wanted to kill all ‘batty men’. Same with the older generation- on a 36 bus going past the Vauxhall tavern, my dad saw two old ladies talking about how gays should all die. It was usual to see a drunk/drugged person on a rant in the street about ‘batty men’ as well. In some areas, homophobia is just ingrained in the locals, and I cannot blame gay people from steering clear of them.

    And while I understand that there is a lot of white British homophobia, my understanding of it was that a lot of the worst anti-gay sentiment had been imported from other cultures which were immune to any type of criticism.

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