The Importance of Holding HandsWritten by scott on September 28th, 2013
My husband Mark and I were coming out of a movie theater in Folsom, California, yesterday (yes, that Folsom – prison and all), when he excitedly pointed to something and said “Look, look!”
I followed the direction of his outstretched finger and saw a group of people, a car, the building across the street – nothing particularly noteworthy.
Then he said “No, there,” and pointed again, and I saw it.
A young gay couple, walking across the street, holding hands.
Now, Folsom is no right-wing backwater, but neither is it a progressive mecca like San Francisco (or even nearby Sacramento). Its a solidly working-class community, a bedroom city, known for its famous prison, its Intel offices, and its shopping for locals in other cities close by.
Mark called out to the couple, and they stopped, obviously perplexed about being addressed by this stranger. We faced each other, two couples separated by something like 30 years, and Mark told them how amazing it was to see them engaged in the simple act of holding hands on a public street.
They were a little surprised – they couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, and I guess that, to them, nothing was more natural than holding the hand of the one you love.
And that’s the point. We live in a rapidly changing world. Sometimes I forget how fast its changing.
The next generation has no problem holding hands in public because, well, why should they? They are equal to everyone else, and they know it. At least here in California.
The whole thing made me realize how far I haven’t come. For all that Mark and I have embraced the marriage equality movement, a part of me is still stuck back in 1986, when I was a senior in high school, and petrified to think that anyone might find out.
In fact, my first thought when I saw this couple holding hands was the danger they might be placing themselves in by being so public.
My second thought was how sad it is that I grew up in such a different time, and that I still carry vestiges of my internal homophobia with me, twenty two years after I stepped out of the closet.
I wonder what it would be like to grow up gay now, in this place, in this time. To be sure of myself as a gay man in a way I never was at that age, and in some ways am still not today.
I wonder what it would have been like to have had a “real” wedding – one planned with time and care, instead of the one that was forced upon us by the onslaught of Prop 8 and the impending public vote on our fitness to be married.
And, if truth be told, I am a little envious of that young gay couple in Folsom, walking down the street hand in hand as if… as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And I was intensely proud of them.
We left the two of them there, probably shaking their heads at the strange attitudes of this older gay couple.
And I took Mark’s hand in mine as we walked back to the car.
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