Op-ed: Navigating the Gay PDA
BY Nicolas DiDomizio
May 30 2013 5:00 AM ET
Seven years ago I was a college freshman in a long-term relationship with my senior boyfriend, Shawn. I was young and naive, and Shawn was older than me but still young and naive. Together we were roommates, lovers, and best friends.
Shawn and I were open about our relationship to most of our friends and family — and, given that he was the president of a big student organization — pretty much the entire school. By many standards, we were out out. Yet I felt like we were still so in at the same time — always playing up our masculinity and “passing” as two straight buddies to anyone we encountered outside of the small bubble that was the safe zone of our Connecticut college campus. Random people on the street “didn’t matter,” according to Shawn, so why should we openly love each other in front of them?
This logic worked fine for us in the beginning, as it was pretty much all I was comfortable with anyways – but after about a year, I started wanting to kiss him when we’d be out to lunch and he'd say something adorable. Or I’d long to touch his back while we walked through the mall on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I playfully tried to provoke Shawn during these moments by saying antagonizing things like, “I dare you to hold my hand right now. Come on — do it! What are you so afraid of, wuss?!”
I was joking about the “wuss” part, but meant the other stuff.
Eventually, I turned Shawn’s “these people don’t matter” defense against him, arguing that the inconsequentiality of strangers’ opinions was all the more reason for us to engage in whatever the fuck kind of PDA we wanted to.
“You don’t get it, Nic. It doesn’t work like that — we’re two guys,” he’d contend, “Us holding hands would just cause a scene. And for what? You don’t know what kind of bigots there are out there.”
That was usually my cue to try to interject with a rebuttal about how it was 2006 and bigots were so not even a thing anymore, but I’d only get so far as, “Oh, my gah — ” before he’d interrupt me and say something like, “Nobody has to know we’re a couple — only we do. Isn’t that enough for you?”