Anna, 43 years old and married, identifies as cis-female and lesbian/queer fem.
I finally came out just before my 40th birthday. When I met my wife, just 9 months later, we held hands in public without hesitation from the very beginning.
I felt an enormous sense of peace in holding her hand; I felt invisible for decades, and holding hands with her was just natural, it felt good to be me, with her. I’m acutely aware that as a teenager, I hid behind bi-curiosity when confronted about my same sex relationships. I had started secondary school as section 28 came into force, and LGBTQ+ people just weren’t visible in my local community and those in the media were either reviled or ridiculed. When I met my wife, as well as feeling natural, I realised that holding hands with her was, and remains, a political act.
Only once have we encountered homophobia based on holding hands – walking down a road that is our usual route, two men passed us and looked at us in disgust, one of them shouting ‘Fucking lesbians’. It was in the middle of the day and the road was busy, but no one else acknowledged it.
Mostly, I find that holding hands is perceived positively – we have been smiled at by other same sex couples (men and women) and by children and teenagers. Sometimes, I have caught a teenaged girl looking back or staring across the road, and when I have caught her eye and smiled, there has been a returned smile, and it has always felt like those smiles were about being seen, recognised and that they conveyed relief.
I feel very strongly that having had no positive role models who were gay women growing up, it is important for me to be visible – to be the person I needed when I was younger.