On Sunday John and I took his brother Ben to eat sushi for his birthday. As we drove past the corner of Michigan and Mass Ave. I noticed a couple walking down the street holding hands. Probably in their 20s, khaki shorts and t-shirts–sweet, nothing remarkable about them really. It wasn’t until we’d almost passed them that I realized the couple was two guys.
I shouted, “Hey, did you see that? Those two guys were holding hands!!” in a fast, high-pitched squeal like tires screeching to a halt. John and Ben turned to look and then went back to talking about whatever it was they were discussing, apparantely unimpressed that they were watching what I feel sure was a little piece of Indianapolis history in the making.
Their lack of interest didn’t keep me from talking to myself about how proud I was of those guys. Indy doesn’t really have a gayborhood so it was basically like they were walking down Main Street anywhere. For the benefit of my readers who are not gay, that is risky business even in 2007. I read stories all the time about couples who get jumped in cities larger than Indy.
I detest double standards for gay couples, but John and I have frequently lived by them out of fear. Having to ask yourself, “is holding John’s hand worth the stares, stitches and insurance premium” sort of drains the joy from any spontaneous act of affection. Unless you’re drunk. Once I shouted “I love you” at John at a very loud sports bar in West Lafayette popular with Boilermaker fans and players. I couldn’t figure out why his only response was to silently let the color rush from his face. Like any normal slightly buzzed southern boy I took it personally. Having to be on your guard constantly, even when you aren’t conscious of it because it is so second nature, wreaks silent havoc on your psyche. Just ask John. This is why Rosie O’Donnell’s gay family vacations are so poplular–nobody on that boat has to worry about being judged or afraid.
I hope those guys enjoyed their walk. And I hope they, like John and Ben, would be surprised by how surprised I was.
When all couples like the one I saw can be who they are without having to bury their identity beneath a straight facade I suspect we won’t end up with closeted “Family Values” senators soliciting cops in airport bathrooms or park toilets or gunning for anonymous sex via the internet while their wives sit at home. Based on what I saw Sunday, the future may be a little brighter for the younger generation.