My husband and I have been together for ten years. We have never held hands in public

After many victories on rights for LGBTQ people, I believe the issue we have isn’t just a legal one, it’s a social one.

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With all the progress that has been made in the last decade for the LGBTQ community, both legally and socially, on paper, Britain is a more equal place for members of that community. Gay couples have had the right to adopt since 2002, to have civil partnerships since 2004, and from 2014, equal marriage. Many outsiders to our community may claim “you have equal rights now, isn’t that enough?” Sadly, I feel there is still much progress to be made. 

I am 29 and my husband is 35, and we have been in a loving, committed relationship for the last ten years. In 2017, we got married in front of our nearest and dearest. However, during that same decade, we have never once held hands in public. When I learned that a national survey found that two-thirds of LGBTQ people avoid holding hands in public, it came as no surprise.

At my wedding, I felt safe to show off my relationship, without having to hold back. In the room that day, there was only love, no hate. There were no fears of being looked at (in a negative way at least!) nor of verbal or physical abuse being directed at us. In public, however, I am saddened that this is not the case. There have been many occasions where I have wanted to share a quick farewell kiss with my husband at the train station. However, we both find ourselves glancing around to assess our surroundings to identify any potential dangers from other members of the public. The fear isn’t just about someone saying something, it’s the worry of a disapproving look or stare that makes us feel uncomfortable and unsafe. 

We do have more equal rights than ever before and believe me, I am beyond grateful for these as without them the relationship between my husband and I would not be legally recognised. Yet one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation in the last 12 months. On one end of the spectrum, horrific and shocking stories of harassment, verbal and physical abuse are shared throughout the LGBTQ community, and on the other, disappointing stories of discrimination occur, such as the incident where an American baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple (the supreme court sided with the baker). There have been plenty of insults and offensive comments directed at me, even from my own family, and I am now resilient enough to ignore them, but it’s these incidents which prevent me from showing any kind of public display of affection with my husband. 

I believe the issue we have isn’t a legal one, it’s a social one. I will always be grateful to those who fought hard for the equal rights that I am fortunate enough to enjoy today in 2018. I also do not take for granted the shift in public feeling towards the LGBTQ community – there is a lot of love out there. However, I do feel there is still work to do to ensure people from the LGBTQ community feel safe and free to go about their lives without fear of discrimination or attack.