James, 24 years old, identifies as non-binary trans masculine and gay. Currently in a 6-month relationship with an individual who identifies as a bisexual cis male.
In this photo, we’d just been coming back from swimming, and it was on the tube. And what I specifically want to say about this photo is that I found myself on the tube or on platforms not holding hands specifically but being intimate in other ways. So almost hiding the hand or touching, for example. We weren’t exactly drawing attention to it. He’s on his phone actually. But yeah, in terms of holding hands or being intimate, it’s always hidden. I remember when I was at Holborn tube station [in London] and he was behind me. I put my hand by my side and then he held it, so it was hidden again, rather than being quite open. I think the idea of secrecy adds into an idea of shame as well around holding hands and its intimacy specifically, and that is purely from a safety perspective. It’s not that we’re afraid or not proud. It’s just that we didn’t want any hassle, and we’d rather have a pleasant Saturday morning coming back from swimming rather than any difficulties. Yeah, I think that photo specifically shows that sometimes it’s necessary to hide, even if you’re proud of who you are and who you’re with.
One time, we were on the tube on the way to my boyfriend’s place. And it was just when the 10 o’clock curfew had been brought in [restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic]. So, we decided to travel about eight o’clock just before everyone was going to get on the tubes. And we thought that was the safest option in terms of avoiding lots of people coming onto the tubes – to prevent coronavirus more than feeling unsafe. But actually, what that meant was that no one was traveling on the tubes at that time, because everyone was either indoors and not going out or was already out because of the curfew. And so we were completely alone in a carriage until someone got on at a station on the next carriage along. And then obviously there are windows and they saw that we, I think I had my hand round him and we’re holding hands. And he, one person in the next carriage started banging on the door and shouting “fag asses!”. And I thought that because those carriage doors can open that he would open the door, but thankfully that didn’t happen. He then sort of wandered around the carriage a little bit and finally sat down. But we were quite shaken up and so we ended up getting off at the next stop, waiting for the next train and then getting on that one. But that was yeah almost because we were alone, you think that you would potentially be safe, but actually that puts you in more danger sometimes. And we weren’t doing anything, you know, particularly outrageous, I feel. I found it quite striking how much of a threat intimacy is for people to see. That you know something so basic as showing love, to other people is a threat or is something to be stopped in some way. So, following that we’ve been very careful about what we have done or not done on transport. So that includes hiding hands and hiding intimacy, because we don’t want to stop that, because I think it’s, you know, it’s a comforting thing.