Over the weekend ABC News aired a special involving two same-sex couples that descended upon Birmingham, Alabama, gay couple Kaolin and James who have been in a committed relationship for two years and married lesbian couple Ashby and Leslie who have been together for eight years.
The cameras captured the couples as they displayed public affection in a Birmingham park as onlookers stopped to gawk, shake their heads in disapproval, and even call the police.
Public displays of affection are quite common among heterosexual couples. On any given day a stroll through the park, a mall, or even onboard an airplane you’re bound to find two straight people who care about each other expressing their love publicly, sometimes to the extent where some might consider their behavior slightly pornographic.
Yet this simple luxury is not afforded to gay and lesbian couples, but is often taken for granted by straight couples who never have to think twice or fear for their safety when giving in to the natural desire to hold their partner’s hand or kiss in public.
ABC News presented a very different Birmingham than I’d seen over a year ago on the LOGO Network’s short lived reality program U.S. of ANT where we were introduced to an out black gay minister with a thriving congregation, a black transsexual female in an interracial relationship with an accepting mother-in-law, and all the signs pointing towards a progressive city in the middle of a red state.
Instead we saw just how deep intolerance runs not only in Birmingham but also across the country for gays and lesbians.
One of the most disturbing moments in the program occurs when a witness to Kaolin and James’ PDA decides to call the police to report the couple (as if they were committing a crime) and a police officer is actually dispatched to the scene.
“They said ya’ll was out here making out”, said the officer. Just don’t do that out in public”. Moments later the cop receives a phone call from his superior informing him that the gay couple were actors participating in a study spearheaded by ABC that changes his entire demeanor.
“Ya’ll seem to be alright, have a good one”. I wonder how the African-American officer would have handled the situation if Kaolin and James were a black couple.
By this time I was already fuming over what was taking place, but to add more fuel to the fire we witness the double standard of lesbian PDA that is often more acceptable in public if not damn near desirable by some testosterone driven straight men.
To be fair Ashby & Leslie receive some of the same looks of disapproval as the gay couple. One teenage girl looks repulsed and tells ABC that she’s “disgusted and just doesn’t want to see two people of the same sex kissing”.
A moment later a man walks up to the lesbian couple and introduces himself and his male friends who are obviously turned on by the couple.
No outright hostility and no phone call to the police are made.
Can we say obvious double standard? Hell yes! I’ve written about PDA before and I could get on my soapbox once again but I’m going to keep this short and sweet. PDA is a personal choice between two people. My partner and I actually choose not be affectionate in public, actually he chooses not to be and I’m constantly grabbing his hand or attempting to kiss him just to watch him squirm. But any couple gay or straight should have the right to express their love for each other without having to be concerned with their surroundings or a visit from the police.
It’s a shame that most people would rather see two men at war than holding hands. We’ve come a long way but we still have so much farther to go.
Watch the video below: