Twitter thread shows that same-sex couples are still met with shock in public

A tweet by a Canadian editor that documented a stranger’s reaction to her kissing her partner has gone viral, inspiring others to share similar experiences and serving as a reminder that LGBTQ folks’ public displays of affection are still often met with shock or hate. 

Erica Lenti on Saturday tweeted about a woman at the grocery store who “dropped her groceries” when she saw Lenti kiss her girlfriend.

“…and that’s the change I want to be in this world,” Lenti wrote. 

As people’s tweets attested, strangers’ reactions to the existence of gay people in public range from adoration to gross bigotry.

“When my wife & I were entering Target once, a woman grabbed both of her children, pulled them into her, then covered their eyes with her hands,” one user wrote. “As we passed, she pursed her lips, furrowed her brows, & shook her head at us.”

Some people shared being pleasantly surprised by a stranger’s support.

“When I was 23 and living in Italy, my male friend and I decided to kiss for the shock factor as a Catholic nun approached,” one Twitter user said. “The joke was on us. She calmly smiled, nodded and wished us buongiorno.”

Some speculated about the staring stranger who dropped her groceries. Is she secretly gay and sad she’s missing out? Did she miss the memo that the year is 2019? 

Some were cautiously hopeful that the stunned woman dropped her groceries “to do a slow clap” or because she “got all hot.” 

Some shared their anecdotes from the other side.

“I saw two girls holding hands at the grocery store and kiss and I was so happy I had to squat and cry,” one person commented.

One anecdote was particularly touching.

“I’d like to give a shout out to the lesbians I saw laughing and canoodling on the bus in Berkeley in 1983,” a user wrote. “15 year old vacation me probably stared at you in a weird way, but 51 year old queer me thinks about you often, and always with a grateful smile.”

While the Twitter thread was full of good humor, the underlying issue is obvious. It’s still not always safe for LGBTQ people to make public displays of affection. It’s only been three years since a shooter killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub, and the attacker’s father said the attacker was enraged after seeing two gay men kiss. In response, #TwoMenKissing took over Twitter, and people shared photos of kisses with their partners. 

The hashtag clearly remains relevant. As Samantha Allen wrote in a 2017 Daily Beast report, “As much as Americans pledge support for LGBT people and as frequently as we recite the ‘love is love’ mantra, same-sex love still makes too many of us uncomfortable when we witness it firsthand.” The recognition of same-sex love isn’t enough just when it’s legalized and “on paper,” and allies have to do better “in person,” Allen wrote.

It’s one thing to make space in policies and the law, but the deeper change will be recognized when there is space for people to express themselves freely in the same manner as cis, straight people—especially in public spaces like grocery stores.

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Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque