11/03/2009 09:25 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Queeries: Can Boyfriends Make out in Public?

Public Displays of Affection

Q: Can a gay or lesbian couple kiss in public? On the cheek or on the lips? How about holding hands? -- Touchy feely

A: Yes, yes, yes and yes! Of course, it depends where you are.

Ah, the PDA question (that's public display of affection for those new to the acronym). Here's a real-life story from my extended family: "Mary and I had been visiting my family for the holidays, along with my brother, sister and their spouses," e-mailed Vicki. "Like my siblings, we held hands from time to time and even kissed each other warmly -- but certainly not open-mouthed! Late in the day, my mother took me aside and said sternly, 'There'll be no touching in this house.' I asked, 'Does that apply only to Mary and me or to everyone, including the family heterosexuals?' That stymied her."

The rules about showing affection publicly are the same for gay men and lesbians as they are for straight folks. However, the acceptable public behaviors we exhibit -- regardless of our sexuality -- are different, say, whether we're in a nightclub, bar or movie theater versus a church, classroom or a family dinner. Generally, hand-holding, eye-gazing and light kissing are perfectly fine in public; groping, tongue-kissing and touching below the waist are not.

Two caveats:

• No matter what the rules: If you ever feel as though any public display may result in physical harm, refrain and leave the scene.

• Some of us have relied on overt displays. For instance, public "kiss-ins" as a legitimate means of political theater or free speech (so-to-speak). Right on! Again, just be sure to consider the context and your safety.

One caution: Think twice about talking back to your mother!

Note for straights: What's good for the goose is good for the gander. This is the basis for equality.

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