Change can start with a kiss.
This was the message of the LGBT couples who gathered outside the Science Center yesterday to lock lips as a message of LGBT pride and visibility. The seemingly simple event, participants said, had deeper social and political implications.
Joel Z. Yao, an LGBT tutor in Winthrop, organized the “kiss-in” as part of this month’s Gaypril celebration of LGBT awareness. He said that he wanted to support same-sex couples’ ability to feel safe in public spaces by situating same-sex love in the public eye.
“I want to encourage LGBT boys and girls to uphold their orientation and express affection toward their partners,” he said. “I see it as a tender gesture to show gay and straight are the same, because love is the same.”
Yao added that despite gains in visibility, LGBT people still face considerable prejudice.
According to Yao, although over the past two decades an increasing number of young gay men have come out in high school and are comfortable with their identity, many remain reluctant to express their sexuality—or even afraid to do so.
“Even on a campus that is pretty ‘gay friendly,’ there are still a lot of people struggling,” Yao said.
A graduate student—who said he preferred to remain anonymous because identifying the event’s objectives with a particular name would detract from its message of universal acceptance—agreed that LGBT people are often made to feel out of place, even when it comes to “simple” acts like expressing affection.
“Straight couples can kiss at their convenience, but I feel like I’m immediately drawing attention when I’m in public with someone I love,” he said. “I don’t want to have to fight to be a normal person.”
The kiss-in’s participants, many standing arm in arm with their partners, said that the prevalent perception in society that heterosexuality is normal and anything else is wrong has contributed to discrimination against LGBT individuals.
James F. L. Croft, a doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of Education, said that issues of discrimination and normalcy are deeply rooted in American culture, adding that “attitudes around sex and sexuality are really screwed up.”
“Many people feel ashamed aboutsex, but it needs to be expressed as normal, healthy, and central to our identities as human beings,” Croft said.
He added that sex education propagates political and social opposition to open and honest sexuality, for gay and straight couples alike.
“If we don’t get the schooling right, I don’t think we’ll be able to live in a society where people have safe and healthy sexual relationships that they’re proud of,” Croft said.
When the bell struck one, he and his partner draped a rainbow flag around their shoulders and locked together in an embrace.
“Events like today’s kiss-in help people see same-sex love as a regular part of everyday experience, and that’s the change society needs. There’s too little love in the world to allow any of it to be censored.,” he said.
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.