A friend recently told me that while she supports same-sex marriage and gay rights, watching two men kiss each other makes her feel uncomfortable. She said it was the kind of discomfort that one might feel when seeing a woman breast-feed her baby in public. I understood what she was saying. For many years I too felt the same way, because I had never seen two men display affection, although it was something I wanted to experience so desperately. I'll never forget the way I felt the first time I saw two men lock lips: shock, in a look-away type of embarrassment. And I remember the first time I kissed a man: shock.
But this time it was electricity.
It was the most natural feeling in the world, just as breast-feeding a baby is the most natural thing in the world. So why is it, as Ernest J. Gaines posed in A Lesson Before Dying, that as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?
I know the answer to that question, and it has nothing to do with what is right or wrong, good or bad, natural or unnatural.
The answer is censorship, including self-censorship.
We as a gay community often feel uncomfortable publicly showing our affection in a world dominated by heterosexual images of love. People will say, "I don't care what you do in the bedroom, just don't push it on me." But every day I am bombarded with images of men kissing women, in magazines, TV shows, movies and on the street. My co-workers proudly display photographs of themselves and their spouses on their desk. On Facebook and Twitter my heterosexual friends post pictures of themselves hugging and kissing their girlfriends, boyfriends or spouses. So I have to ask: Who is doing the pushing?
Images and public displays of same-sex love and attraction are often met with resistance and disdain. Just this year a gay couple in California was asked to leave a mall for sharing a kiss. In New Mexico two men were asked to sit at the back of the bus for simply holding hands. No one would dare to ask a straight couple to stop holding hands or kissing in public.
In Russia anti-gay laws prevent gay couples from speaking about or displaying same-sex affection. In Africa and the Middle East the penalty is much harsher and may include a death sentence.
There is little that I can do to change the world. I could pour my Russian vodka down the drain and boycott the Olympics, but I want to see my fellow Americans, LGBT or not, kick some Russian ass and enjoy a martini while they do it.
But there is one small gesture that I do every day that brings me joy: I show my husband affection in public. By showing the world, including those who support us, that we kiss and hug and demonstrate love just as they do, we can change the world by changing perceptions. So I'll continue to show affection to my husband in public, and I'll post a photo of me and my husband kissing on Facebook and Twitter.
I hope you'll join me in this virtual kiss-in in the hope that one day the world will be shocked that the image of two men kissing was ever considered alarming.
William Dameron's personal blog is The Authentic Life.