Earlier this month, the online world went into a meltdown over a photo of two men in love.
When Michael Sam was picked in the NFL draft by St Louis Rams on May 10, he publicly kissed his partner to celebrate — and we originally viewed the moment as a simple expression of joy and affection.
But others didn’t share that view. Former NFL player Derrick Ward posted on Twitter that the kiss was “disgusting”, sparking a massive, transnational social media debate over the “appropriateness” or otherwise of the kiss.
That debate signaled to us that the kiss was not just a tender moment but a wake-up call to the world.
Because if two people expressing their love for one another can still provoke international, vitriolic trolling, we really, really need to normalise the sort of image you’re seeing above. And not just normalise, but celebrate. Because who doesn’t like a lovely kiss?
Yup, it’s time to introduce more LGBT kisses into the mainstream media.
And here’s why:
Because it’s a straight person’s world. And that’s messed up.
If you’re straight, you probably haven’t thought much about the fact that being heterosexual is regarded as a default setting in our society — but that’s exactly how it feels for many LGBT people, as 20-year-old Ruby explains.
“We don’t want to be seen as an anomaly, as something that’s not normal,” she says.
She says she’s received death threats after posting on her blog about her relationship with her partner Bonnie, 20.
“I’ve gotten messages saying, ‘Kill yourself so your parents don’t have to deal with you,'” she says.
“It’s not safe for us, and it’s not comfortable for us, and we don’t have the luxuries straight people have.”
Lola, 21, agrees that “straight people need to realise that heteronormative isn’t normal for everybody”.
“If you say you have a girlfriend, the default setting is that people think it’s just a close female friend… It’s just a daily reminder that it’s not our world, it’s a straight person’s world,” she says.
“The reason LGBT relationships are useful in the media is that not only does it give gay people something to relate to… it means that straight people know that being gay is something that happens in everyday life.”
Because many of the same-sex kisses we DO see on our screens undermine real LGTB relationships.
Both women agree that we need to see more LGBT kisses on our screens — but not of the Madonna-and-Britney, or Miley-and-Katy, variety.
“When celebrities kiss as a publicity stunt, it’s in a titillation-for-men kind of way,” says Lola.
“Women aren’t making out with women because it’s something they want to do with each other.”
Ruby points to pop hits by heterosexual women like Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl as well as lesbian porn made for men as “part of the problem that fetishises our relationship”.
“We’re in a relationship and we don’t want to be diminished, or fetishised,” she says.
“And I think there’s a huge misperception that lesbians are more accepted than straight men. But I think that’s wrong, because there’s this misconception that we exist purely for male pleasure and that just diminishes our relationships.”
“Like (in public) Bonnie and I will kiss, and we’ll look up and there’ll be a guy staring,” she says.