Roderick, 45 years old, identifies as gay male, currently single, but recently in 5 year relationship with an individual who identified as a gay man.
I’ve always been fascinated with these, these small things that fight against something that’s a lot bigger than them. I think people underestimate how hard it is to be gay. You have to be so strong to be gay and to be in this world and in the very next breath, it’s something so delicate and so fragile that any foot could just fucking crush it.
You have to be so strong to hold hands. That’s why you hardly ever see it. You never just hold hands. That’s the thing I think is so important to understand. You look over your shoulder. You make sure you’re safe. And then you hold hands. Or one person looks at you funny and you stop. It’s that thing of…that picture for me is also about the fragility you feel because all eyes just go on you. Even today. So for me, holding hands is an act of desperate courage. And often you fail. And for me, you’re always pushing against what others take so for granted. And it makes me sad that. And it makes you feel like you’re not worthy of the love that other people have, and the rest of society has and it makes you feel that somehow you’re a coward, when you try and protect yourself by not holding hands. It’s got to be planned. It’s going to be thought of, ‘are we in the safe space?’ ‘Are we in the right kind of area?’
My ex-partner reminded me of something that happened to us right at the beginning of our relationship. And I was his first partner. He only came out when he was 30 and I had already had three boyfriends by that stage. And he reminded me of this thing that I’d completely forgotten. We were walking to the zoo, which was right near my house. And there was a whole bunch of like, it was a weekend, there was a whole bunch of straight people with their families and everything walking towards the zoo. And we were holding hands because we were desperately newly in love. And this guy in a white van was driving past, leaned out of his window and shouted ‘fucking faggots’. And everybody who was walking towards the zoo turned around and we were holding hands. We were singled out. Out of all the people who were there, in all the lazy acceptance of what they’re able to do. And we were kind of verbally bashed. So, and we were like… I can’t remember. I don’t think he remembered either. But we probably stopped holding hands. And died inside. Somehow, what is beautiful become sullied. You know what it’s like when you’re newly in love, there’s a wonderful sense that anything is possible. And you’ll conquer the world, and you feel strong, and loved, and looked at, and seen, and witnessed. But then the witness turns into somebody who hates you. You die inside. Something stops. And holding hands then becomes the threat.
And there was another time on the tube in London. And I don’t even think we had held hands. I literally was brushing my partner’s knee with my finger. And there was a family sitting opposite us – a man, a wife, a boy and a grandmother. My partner and I were chatting and talking and laughing and just, you know, little brushes of intimacy. And the guy stood up, they had come to their stop. The doors opened and as the doors open, he turned to his son who was maybe 10 years old and said, “watch out for the fucking faggots”. And he got off the tube and the doors closed. And I remember sitting there. It was like a punch. I remember sitting there going, “did I just hear that?” And he had done it in such a cowardly way that it was at the moment the doors were open, he could get out and the doors could close and I would be sitting there going, ‘What the fuck?’ And we weren’t even holding hands. I literally remember it was just brushing my partner’s knee with my finger. And that was enough. So, holding hands is like dynamite!