Is mainstreet ready for gay PDA?

Maybe yes, maybe no, but lately Birmingham, AL, has come under the microscope because ABC News 20/20 chose to do a sensationalist hidden-camera ratings-grabber of a story ostensibly to find out.

Since that time it has been ricocheting around the blogosphere and again today this popped into my RSS reader:

On Friday, ABC’s 20/20 tackled a palpable double-standard facing same-sex couples who are affectionate in public. […]

In the segment, a straight couple making out in a restaurant get strange looks and mocking applause. Two test couples, hired as actors but in actual committed relationships, are posted in a public spot in Birmingham, Alabama, where reactions from passersby to their kisses and embraces are filmed.

With the two men, James and Kaolin, witnesses are largely indifferent or grudgingly polite, but a couple reactions, especially from older people, are pronounced; one woman calls the police, and another yells at the test couple to “get a (expletive) room.”

We’re led to believe that our prejudices will be confirmed that here in the South folks are uptight and unforgiving, while in the liberal Northeastern state of New Jersey people will be warm and accepting.

Well, the ABC story, in the very final paragraphs on page 3, finds that no such truism is there to be found:

It quickly became clear that there is no set regional opinion. The feelings and opinions of people are as varied as the individuals who express them.

As it happens, I could have told them that myself. Last year I was quoted in a beautifully written and much more nuanced look at the double standard surrounding gay public displays of affection, A Kiss Too Far?

“The last time I was called a faggot was on Eighth Avenue,” said Joe Windish, a longtime New Yorker who now lives in Milledgeville, Ga., with his partner of many years. “I don’t have that here, and I’m an out gay man,” said Mr. Windish, whose neighbors in what he termed “the reddest of the red states” may be fundamentalist Christians who oppose gay marriages and even civil unions, but “who all like me personally.”

Not exactly the way I want to be memorialized but, hey, I said it! The author, Guy Trebay, found me after reading a post from the summer before, reflecting on PDAs after a trip to Jekyll Island with my partner.

  • runasim

    NY has always had a large population of almost any stripe, including bigots and gaybashers.
    A few years ago, there were some really bad attacks near Washington Square, the last place you’d expect that to happen.
    Of course, a lot of tourists come to NY to do their thing, on week-ends, When these things happen. it’s not always clear whether it’s NY’s Main Sreet residents who are responsible or whether it’s people who are visiting. Probably both.

    Of course, you can’t gauge statistics from news headlines. Are these events reported because they are actually rare? I don’t know.
    Anything is possible in NY.