The Privilege of PDA

By Blaize Stewart

December 14, 2019



Photo credit: Pexels/Dana Tentis

I recently decided to take some “me time” to reflect on how far I have come personally, professionally, and emotionally. As I dove into my memories and experiences, I was happy to remember many milestone moments of success, like moving to the city and finally landing a job I love. Overall, I was excited to meditate on the many stellar times I've had in the decade since I left high school.

However, as excited and grateful as I am to see how far I have come, there are still many goals left on my list that remain unchecked. Sure, I met my goal to re-read Harry Potter at least twenty times (it’s actually closer to thirty), but in terms of my more serious aspirations, there were a few I was disappointed to achieve.

There is one, a simple remaining goal that continues to elude me: the ability to feel comfortable expressing romantic affection in public. In short, PDA.

Loving couple resting in restaurant while handsome guy kissing hand of his brunette girlfriend.
Bigstock/Dean Drobot

When I say this, I’m not talking about any type of obscene, over-the-top examples of PDA, but rather the simple, daily moments of affection that many people act on frequently and unconsciously. They never consider what a privilege it is to be able to do so.

As a bi man, this has always been an area of concern for me. By nature, I tend to be very practical and compartmentalized when it comes to emotion and affection, but there is still a romantic in me just begging to be let out. With the combined forces of my nature and the anxiety over PDA, I rarely, if ever, give that inner romantic the chance to go out and enjoy the world.

It was a sobering thought to realize that at age 27, I have never walked down the street on a normal day, holding the hand of someone I care about as we aimlessly window shop. I have never given a significant other a peck on the cheek as we part ways after dinner or a show. I’ve never been comfortable enough to put my affection out there for the world to see. I’m not saying this is even something I would routinely do, but I would love to be comfortable enough to enjoy these moments when they arise.

Two women lying on a bed together. One is kissing the other on the head while she laughs.
Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto

In safe, LGBTI-oriented events and spaces I am much more comfortable with expressing myself, but the fact of the matter is, the world at large is not yet a safe space for people like me. If I walk down the street holding hands with a significant other of the same gender, who knows how the world could react? Maybe nothing would happen…but that maybe is still enough to make me hesitate and keep my hands firmly by my sides.

As much as I hate to admit it, I do feel a twinge of jealousy seeing straight affection on display everywhere I look. You can see it in public, plastered across advertisements, read about it in books, magazines and online and see it on television, in movies, and in countless other places and media.

The lack of representation and visibility when it comes to same-sex PDA definitely impacts my own life. I worry that if I have never seen or rarely see it in public, it might be perceived as sordid by the average passerby. There are so many areas of my life in which I have to fight for acceptance and, while I had hoped this was not one of them, it seems like it might be. Since I failed to meet this goal in the last decade, I have decided to make it more of a priority at the dawn of this new decade.

I realized that while there may be some negative reactions in public, the main person holding myself back when it comes to this is me. In order to normalize this behavior, I am the one who must view it as something that is not out of the ordinary, but a normal part of daily life.

Whatever progress I make in this arena in the coming years, I think there will always be a part of me who holds on to at least a tiny bit when the opportunity for PDA arises. I don’t think it will hinder me from being comfortable, but rather, allow me to enjoy the moment that much more as I remember the long journey I took to be able to enjoy these small, seemingly inconsequential moments of affection.

A multi ethnic male couple showing affection in public holding each other.


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