Reclaiming PDA as a Queer Woman

What shapes so many people’s views of PDA is as simple as “Will other people think it’s gross?”

For me, it’s “will kissing my girlfriend on the cheek get us harassed?” 

This month, Bristol SU is putting on their Reclaim the Night campaign - a brilliant fight against sexual harassment. Making the choice to reclaim such things is in many ways an act of defiance against the very social attitudes that put us in danger. 

But the same issues don’t affect people of different identities equally. It’s a fair assumption that most women feel nerves walking home alone at night. Yet, while a woman walking home holding her boyfriend’s hand has an extra ring of safety, me walking home with my girlfriend often adds an additional level of fear. I can be scared walking home alone, yes, but a sleazy man looking at the both of us wrong has me holding her hand just that little bit tighter. 

We were asked to think about what it was that we’ve reclaimed, and for me, it’s PDA. I’ve reclaimed the ability to hold hands with a girl walking home from a club. I’ve reclaimed the ability to lean on her shoulder in uni common rooms, to have her arms around my stomach while I’m cooking, to have her kiss me goodbye after she ran into me in the street before lectures. 

With it I’ve reclaimed the ability for our friends to roll their eyes and say, “y’all are gross.” I reclaim the ability to make an old woman in a cafe feel uncomfortable because we caught her staring at our joined hands. I reclaim the ability to let folks know I’m not straight, and have them deal with it however they want to.  

This still comes after years of hiding relationships from parents and friends, and after years of dating girls who didn’t want anyone, not even strangers, to see that we were two girls kissing. This is the result of an active choice to look people dead in the eye when they notice the fact I’m queer and dare them to say something about it.  

And I can’t say that it’s something I’m always comfortable with. Maybe people are always aware of people’s eyes on them, but when I feel people staring as I kiss her goodbye and make eye contact with some random girl who walks by after, I know they’ll be thinking, “Lesbians!”

It makes me uncomfortable, and that sucks - I have every right to do all the gross PDA stuff as non same-sex couples! 

But that’s exactly it: I have every right to show my girlfriend affection however we feel is right. So, I’m making a choice to reclaim PDA from a homophobic society that tells us gay people should keep it to themselves. That we shouldn’t “flaunt it” or rub it in people’s faces, that we shouldn’t be so “out” about it. 

It’s not past tense - I am actively reclaiming it. When I kiss my girlfriend wherever the hell I want, I am reclaiming my right to show affection regardless of gender.

The straight people who have a problem with me can suck it.