What is the most affectionate act a couple can do in public? Hold hands, right? It's something that shows togetherness and a willingness to be close to your partner. The act of holding hands is a simple one but something a lot of LGBT couples simply don't feel like they can do. A recent survey into this phenomenon found that half of LGBT couples feel uncomfortable showing affection in public. This includes holding hands, kissing, hugging or even simply touching their partner in a public space.
To combat this negative mindset, ANZ (Bank of Australia and New Zealand) have started a campaign called ‘Hold Tight’. The campaign features a television advertisement, which shows LGBT couples withdrawing their hands from their partner’s hands when in the proximity of others. The couples in the commercial then begin to ‘hold tight’ to remain strong and show that they have the right to show the same amount of affection in public as straight couples do.
The campaign has highlighted an issue that LGBT couples have lived with for eternity. It’s an issue that hasn't gone away even after the legalisation of same sex marriage in the United States in 2015, and the Marriage Act (Same Sex Couples) in the United Kingdom in 2013. Although same sex marriage has been legalised in many western countries and public opinion is very much inline with the law, there are still homophobic and/or religious people who do not believe that two people of the same sex should be together. I would argue that it’s not just that LGBT couples feel uncomfortable about showing affection in public but they also feel incredibly scared about it too.
The rise of the Alt-Right in the United States and the election of Donald J. Trump has made minorities, including the LGBT community, fearful and mindful that their country isn't as open and tolerant as they once perceived. This is, especially, when the vice president opposed same sex marriage and has fought against LGBT rights throughout his entire career. He once stated that he wished to "protect and promote natural marriage and family” and has championed “traditional” marriage. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former presidential candidate and professional neurosurgeon, has openly stated that he believes gay people can be ‘cured’. There are people in office who currently do not believe that LGBT people should have the same rights as straight people. President Donald J. Trump, himself, has stated: “I think I’m evolving, and I think I’m a very fair person, but I have been for traditional marriage. I am for traditional marriage, I am for a marriage between a man and a woman.”
When there are people in power who are anti-LGBT, there’s a very real chance that the gay community recognises it and becomes suppressed by the politicians. Moreover, the election of Donald J. Trump has given a voice to the far right, the Alt-right, the KKK and neo-nazis. These people are extremely anti-LGBT and are capable of physically harming LGBT people. Imagine two gay men are walking down a street in Idaho, begin holding hands and show affection towards each other. They walk past a gang of anti-LGBT neo-nazis who suddenly feel empowered by the election of the rightwing Trump. Would the gay men not feel scared? Would they feel like they could easily walk past the neo-nazis and still hold hands? The answer is, no.
The problem is the same in the United Kingdom and across the entire world. We’ve all heard stories of LGBT people being beaten to an inch of their lives or maimed by acid, a bullet or a knife. LGBT people do not feel safe enough to show affection. Yes, the majority of people are accepting of same sex relationships but that doesn't mean they will protect LGBT people against psychotic rightwing attackers. Even if these crazy neo-nazis aren't around every corner, there is still a large proportion of the population who have an issue with LGBT couples. Every time the Independent tweet an article with an image of an LGBT couple, the responses are incredibly homophobic and suggest that they are trying to enforce their ‘liberal agenda’.
ANZ’s ‘Hold Tight’ campaign is touching and highlights a clear issue. However, I’m not sure getting LGBT people to show affection in public will change the perceptions and beliefs of neo-nazis. It’s a wonderful idea but one that I don’t believe will work. What they’re essentially asking is for all LGBT people to be Rosa Parks. For all LGBT people to not give up their seat for a more privileged citizen. For all LGBT people to stand up and demand social equality. It’s a simple gesture but one that takes immense courage to do. We’re not all Harvey Milk. We’re not all MLK.