Checking your Hetero Privilege

A few days ago I saw something that affected me deeply.  A gay friend and his boyfriend kissed in public.

It wasn’t this kiss that affected me.  It wasn’t the reaction of those around us.  It wasn’t even fear of what might happen to them if the wrong person saw this kiss and started trouble.

It was the WAY they kissed.

They drew close, eyes only for each other.  My friend cupped his boyfriend’s face like it was made of porcelain and his boyfriend lay his hands on my friend’s ribs, feather light, clenching his shirt in curled fingers.  They kissed, eyes closed and bodies inclined to each other, like it was the most precious act they had ever performed.  They kissed like it was air and sunlight and cool water.  They kissed like the love and joy of that moment might shatter – because the reality is, it might.

LGBTQ rights have been hard won and those who identify as anything other than straight up, hereteronormative people still face distrust, discrimination and hate every day.  And it’s not even just from those who are openly opposed to any form of homosexual relationship.  Regular people, open-minded, LGBTQ-friendly and supportive people still contribute to this negative view, albeit unwittingly.

When’s the last time you laughed at the idea of a straight man being taken by a gay one against his will?  When’s the last time you laughed at a sketch of a lesbian dressed in men’s clothing with hairy armpits and a “butch” haircut?  When’s the last time you said something was “so gay”?  It’s not said to cause hurt or disparage anyone who identifies as gay, but when thrown around to imply there is something negative about the act/object that you are describing as “so gay”, you are still contributing to the overall negativity associated with the word.

Things ARE changing for the better.  I know that, I love it and appreciate it.  The day Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by popular vote, I nearly exploded with pride for my adopted home.  Yes, things are getting better, but we are still so very far away from “equal”.

For me, that kiss said it all.

The sweet fragility of it, the way they held each other and the way they were truly present in that kiss.  They KNEW in every fibre of their being how precious that kiss was, how hard won it was.  It made me think back to the last time I had kissed Gar.   It was done without thought, without concern.  It was a brief moment of desire for his touch.  The sun shined golden off his beard and he had flashed me a crooked smile and in that instant I wanted to kiss him, so I did.

I didn’t hesitate, didn’t worry about what the people around me might think.  I didn’t stop to worry that I might offend someone or that we might be attacked for expressing our love in this way.  I kissed him without thought and without any concern other than that I wanted to kiss him.

And THAT right there is hetero privilege.

Seeing my friend with his boyfriend, it really hit home how lucky I was, how privileged I was and how much I didn’t acknowledge or appreciate that privilege.  I could kiss without thought in any place, almost any circumstances and never worry that I would be verbally attacked or worse for my audacity.

My friend cannot say the same.  Every public display of affection, no matter how chaste, may invite ridicule or attack.  And so this couple kissed like it was a gift because they understand how hard won that kiss was, how until only recently this kiss could have cost them their freedom, maybe even their lives.

As I watched that painfully sweet kiss my friend shared with his lover, I vowed never to take my relationship for granted again.  I vowed that the kisses we shared would never again be passing, automatic reaction things.  Each and every kiss, from the chaste on-the-forehead-peck as he walked past to the deeply passionate prelude kiss of things to come, would be truly and deeply felt.  Never again will I take my privilege for granted.

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