Holding hands in public – it’s such a simple human gesture, capable of telegraphing so much and yet this elementary gesture of friendship, love, affection, support and so many other basic human needs is off-limits, in public at least, to the majority of queer people in Australia and especially for gay men.

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For some reason, perhaps because of the fetishisation of lesbian sex for the heterosexual male gaze in pornography, the sight of two ladies holding hands in public seems to be a lot more acceptable, whereas the sight of two men holding hands is enough to stop traffic in all but the most urban of Australian centres.

A study conducted by ANZ in honour of their 11-year association with Mardi Gras back in 2017 showed that “members of Australia’s LGBTQI community are three times more likely to feel uncomfortable holding hands in public than other Australians” and that while 94% of respondents agreed that everyone should feel comfortable holding hands in public, only 43% of the LGBTQI community actually felt comfortable and confident enough to do so.

And let’s face it, we’re not talking about the horrors of seeing two people eating each other’s faces on a train platform or dry humping in a library, this is two people engaging in the most innocuous forms of Public Displays of Affection possible and yet the sight of two men holding hands is enough to make this 42-year-old gay man blush with the romanticism and braveness of it all, having never walked down the street holding another man’s hand.

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It seems so quaint, doesn’t it, complaining about the fact that the queer community in Australia can’t safely hold hands in public, in light of the hard-won rights that are being stripped away in certain parts of the world but that’s because it is quaint. And yet, we still can’t do it.

Will this ever change? Will this simple gesture of love and affection ever truly be an accepted declaration between two men on the streets of rural or suburban Australia? 

Hopefully one day, Australians of all persuasions will feel safe to perform that most simple act of human connection – basic skin-on-skin contact with another human being of our choosing.

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