Amy, 29 years old, identifies as lesbian female. In a relationship of 6 years with her partner who identifies as a lesbian female.

For me, holding hands, it’s almost kind of secretive. If we ever do, it’s very, very rare that it’s kind of bold and just ‘normal’. For me, it’s not a normal thing to do, in the sense of it’s not easy and comfortable thing to do. In this photo, the hands are kind of there a little bit; we are holding hands, but it’s not super visible. If we ever do hold hands in public, I kind of make a tendency to stand really close together so it’s not as obvious, or put our hands in each other’s pockets so it’s not as obvious. Or only kind of hold hands openly if I would deem the situation to be a safe place or more of a private place … I still very much want to be holding her hand in this picture, and we were holding hands, but not focus on it too much; make it less obvious to the knowing eye.

For me there’s not any shame there, which I think that’s a lot of the discourse that I’ve been in especially with my partner – why are you ashamed of me; why are you ashamed of this? For me it’s nothing to do with that, it’s not even almost embarrassment; it’s the drawing of unwanted attention. I’d say my biggest anxieties around it are actually from a fear and worry point of view, of receiving unwanted attention, whether that be even just people staring or people making a comment or lingering looks and things like that. If the straight couple was walking around holding hands, people don’t even notice it … The main thing for me is, I’m not ashamed, I’m not embarrassed, it’s just I do not want the comments or a nasty remark or look, or just something that I would get in my own head about and feel upset about.

I would never hold hands ever in the evenings walking on the streets, especially if there’s groups of men around or anything like that. I think that just comes from the past where people have made the odd comment or had a look, or just stared or made weird sexualized comments and things like that.

When I was younger, it was it was definitely a lot worse, because I think there was always a fear element in there, especially if they were coming from young men or groups of men. So it’s actually better to not hold hands and not draw attention to it, so you can kind of get past those groups or those people, walk past bars and not have that extra risk given to you. I think there is still an element of fear there for me now, I think, because of all that. Just the extra attention could mean something more negative, whether that be a fear of public humiliation and someone calling you out in public and shouting, or whether it be a fear for like your actual or your partner’s personal safety. You hear stories, you read things, you talk to the people in the gay community, and they’ve had horrible things happen to them. There’s nothing about me that is ashamed about being gay at all; it’s the worry and the fear that something bad may happen.

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