Lesbian Couples and Street Harassment

Before I explored my interest in women (and met the most wonderful girl), I never thought twice about PDA. I knew the politeness around it — holding hands, hugs, and small kissesLesbian_couple_holding_hands being okay. Being in complete agreement with these terms, I had no problem following these as a then-identified straight woman. I would go to the mall or a movie and comfortably hold hands with my boyfriend or kiss him goodbye, not once thinking about how much of a privilege that was.

Before I begin, I do have to say I’m lucky to come from around a city like Rochester where there is a prevalent LGBTQ community, and for the most part, I feel safe enough to be out in public places. However, with that being said, there is still a certain anxiety I feel when going out with my girlfriend. I want to raise attention to this and ask you all to advocate for change. I’m going to write this solely based on my personal experience; I do not wish to speak for all same-sex female couples, nor do I wish to exclude same-sex male couples, transgender people, etc.

When I go out in public with my girlfriend, I find myself with one of two paths to take: do not show any PDA and let everyone assume we are friends, or hold her hand and take the chance that someone at any moment may say something to us (which happens more often than not). When I’m with her, I do choose to hold her hand or put my arm around her because, ultimately, she is the one I care about, and I want to show that to her; but, this also means that my guard is always up. We’ve had people on the street direct “positive” and negative comments towards us — and I say “positive” because no street harassment is a comfortable experience. Instead of just being another couple on the street, we are an entity attracting attention. Why are we looked at differently?

We’ve had comments varying from “how sweet” to “now that’s what I’m talking about” to even whooping and hollering at a small kiss at a concert. No matter the content, it is demeaning to our relationship. It’s been a long-running popular thing for straight women to “act gay” in order to provoke attention from men, and it’s that behavior that also demeans the relationship I’m in. When I kiss my girlfriend or hold her hand, it is not for the entertainment of whomever may be passing by; it’s a small act of affection for her. Just because you’re a witness to it does not entitle you to call out to us and express your enjoyment or dissatisfaction. My relationship’s existence is not to fulfill your sexual fantasies. My relationship is just like any other — an emotional connection between two people. (If you are exploring, go ahead and explore. But please be mindful of the implications of your actions on others if your behavior is just a means for attention.)

Catcalling or street harassment is a major issue in the news today, and there are many differing opinions on whether it is acceptable or not. I personally feel that it is not acceptable; it’s unwanted, demeaning behavior. I am sad to know that there aren’t more articles focused on lesbian-centered street harassment. It is definitely something that should be addressed with respect to this movement. Think of a time where you felt vulnerable, exposed, or exploited: this is what street harassment feels like. It is not a compliment, so don’t take it as one. Advocate for change, stand up for yourself, and we can all make a difference.

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