Steal My Kisses

Normally, I can hide the fact that I am gay pretty easily. When my significant other and I are together in public, it is easy to not reveal the fact that we are in a relationship. Whether it is refraining from engaging in PDA or being vague when referring to one another, we can remain, as a couple, in the closet. When our son was born, we had our own room in the hospital. Looking back, this is one of the only times where, no matter what, I couldn’t hide the fact that I was in a relationship with another man. We had to fill out paperwork, birth certificates, insurance information all while nurses came in and out of the room giving us instructions on how to take care of the baby. It just couldn’t be avoided, we were a couple and this was our family.

Our son is now four months old and we take him to restaurants, the park and on airplanes (although our little champ has flown ever since he was 5 days old). With this, I have to wonder, “Do I default my PDA to ‘newborn baby’ mode or do I revert to pre-baby status?”

The answer to a proud supporter of LGBT civil rights is clear: walk with your head held high, kiss your significant other in public, hold his hand as you oogle over your son. The answer to a neurotic Jewish homosexual is less clear: at what point does a minority stop fearing that other people are looking?

Straight couples hold hands, steal kisses and play with their kids freely in public. Even in today’s age of gay meccas like New York City, I’m always wondering who is watching. I wonder if interracial couples or couples with an obvious age gap would empathize with this. It’s one thing to act proudly and to say you don’t care who is watching but one thing is undeniable — we are still aware that people may be watching. Even though it’s possible that no one is looking.

That being said, I’ll obviously kiss my husband in front of my son at home. When I was a little kid, and one of my parents would walk into the house to greet one another, they would kiss. It’s a nice memory to have, parents in love. As a kid, I would say, “Ew, gross!” My father always had the same response — he would respond in a thick foreign accent — “It’s not gross, it’s delicious!” My son deserves the same sort of nauseating response from his parents.

It’s a nice anecdote and it highlights the idea that couples, with or without children, often engage in PDA. Now that I have a child, I’m finding it difficult to reconcile the prevalence and ease with which straight couples can engage in PDA and the hesitation and self-awareness I feel when I want to do the same thing.

With that in mind, we have to move toward making male/male PDA less stigmatized. As much as I like to play the part of self-righteous gay rights advocate, I sometimes act in a way that drops me down a rung (or eight rungs) on the civil rights ladder from super-activist to closet-case. I promote heternormativity at work social functions. Let me set the scene: a group of people at a work social gathering (or any social gathering for that matter) are greeting one another. The men give handshakes and maybe a bro-hug and the women give each other a kiss on the cheek. Men and women will kiss each other on the cheek. I’ve conducted some social experiments. I’ve tried to kiss a man on the cheek when we greet one another. Their reaction is visceral even if they are the not in the least bit homophobic. The reaction almost screams the words, “Dude, I’m not gay!” The woman next to us cringes, “Dude, he’s not gay!” I get it — a lot of this may be in my head. What’s not in my head, however, is the fact that at any given event, the above scenario always plays out the same way: men kiss women, women kiss women, men do not kiss men.

To not be a hypocrite, I have to start kissing men on the cheek, right? Are you reading this going, “OMG, don’t do it at work!” Because I’m writing this going, “OMG, don’t do it at work!” But, why not? Isn’t the whole point that I am trying to live in a world where two men kissing shouldn’t raise an eyebrow? What kind of pride in myself am I demonstrating to my son? What’s the fear — that someone actually says out loud, “Dude, I’m not gay!”? Let them say it. I say we try and make homosexual PDA as public and as less self-aware as heterosexual PDA. Our kids will be better for it.