Spotlight TEDx Talk: My gay agenda — to hold my partner’s hand in public

Panti Bliss at TEDxDublin

Activist Panti Bliss at TEDxDublin

When you’re gay, the simple act of holding hands is anything but simple, says gay rights activist Panti Bliss at TEDxDublin. It becomes more than a sign of affection; it is a political act, a statement, a risk, whether you want it to be or not.

“I am 45 years old and I have never once unselfconsciously held hands with a lover in public,” she says. “I am 45 years old and I have never once casually, comfortably, carelessly held hands with a partner in public … Because gay people do not get to hold hands in public without first considering the risk. Gay people do not get to put an arm through another arm or put a hand on a boyfriend’s waist without first considering what the possible consequences might be.”

These consequences range from the threat of violence and hostility to mocking and scorn. Even in seemingly safe spaces, Bliss says, small acts of affection between same-sex couples garner attention. “[People] may only notice because they’re thinking, ‘Isn’t nice to see two gays holding hands in public?’” she says, “but they still notice … then our small, intimate, private, little, human gesture has been turned into a statement.”

Having your everyday life be a statement, an act of courage, a risk is complicated and — frankly — exhausting, Bliss says. “When you are 45 years old and you have spent 30 years putting up, 30 years absorbing all of those small slights and intimidations and sneers and occasionally much worse, you just get tired of it,” she says. This fear, uneasiness, awkwardness is the product of a homophobic society, she says, one that perpetuates ideas that gay people are odd, disordered, dangerous, diseased, freakish, worthy of torment and ridicule.

Her gay agenda? To change that. To live in a society where hand holding between any people is just hand holding and where everyone knows that Bliss and other LGBTQ people are “just as ordinary, just as unremarkable, and just as human as you.”

Watch her whole talk below:

Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:

The speaker takes on a complex, important topic with aplomb, passion and clarity. She shares her idea — that homophobia in society has not gone away and affects the everyday lives of LGBTQ people in a countless number of ways, large and small — through a talk both compelling and challenging. She calls on the audience to closely examine an issue that they might not otherwise have been examining or taking notice of and explains why they should, prompting them to question both society and themselves.

1 Comment

  1. Lisa D

    I’m a bisexual black woman who eventually married a white man. I felt the same discomfort holding hands with a woman that I often feel with a white man. It’s different, but still exists. We share a fight for acceptance. I should add that I’ve travelled all over the world, with a lot of time in Asia and the Middle East. This is a challenge for most cultures, which must change.

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