Friday, November 03, 2006

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

As election time nears, conservative politicians predictably seem particularly concerned with the bedrooms of queer couples across the nation. In light of that I thought I would reveal what my partner and I do every single night before falling asleep. Brace yourself folks. You might want to sit down.

We hold hands.

Samantha: He did something to me that was so perverse! Okay, I'm just going to say it. He tried to hold my hand.
Carrie: You mean to tell me that Smith is a hand-holder? And to think he once served us food.

There ya go. It is shocking thing I know. Oh well, in our defense holding hands helps us fall sleep. I've blogged before wondering how it would be to live in an environment where we could do this openly in public. Now we are living in such a place and see gay couples all around us holding hands. However, it's been hard for us to overcome years of lessons about avoiding this seemingly innocent act. All of our lives, we've learned not to stand too close, act too friendly and certainly never to hold hands!

Earlier this year the New York Times published an interesting article about handholding. What I thought was most interesting was a study, conducted by the University of Virginia, that examined "the impact of human touch, particularly how it affects the neural response to threatening situations." James Coan, an assistant professor of psychology and the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Virginia stated, “We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping,” adding that any sort of hand-holding relaxes the body.

The study, which will be published this year in the journal Psychological Science, involved 16 couples who were rated happily married based on the answers in a detailed questionnaire. The wives were put inside an M.R.I. machine and were told they were to receive mild electric shocks to an ankle. Brain images showed that regions of the women’s brains that had been activated in anticipation of pain and that were associated with negative emotions decreased when their husbands reached into the machine.

“With spouse hand-holding you also stop looking for other signs of danger and you start feeling more secure,” said Dr. Coan, who led the study. “If you’re in a really strong relationship, you may be protected against pain and stress hormones that may have a damaging effect on your immune system.”

Handholding has many implications for gay couples. First of all, just as in straight couples, it defines your sexual orientation. At the same time, it shows that you are part of a couple. Because of these two factors, this leaves gay couples vunerable to verbal abuse or worse, violence. The irony is the study above shows that for many couples, holding hands makes them feel safer. In addition, a gay hospital patient often has to deal with his/her illness, temporary or terminal, without the comfort of their partner to hold their hand. (Gay partners are not allowed entry because they are not recognized as "next of kin.")

This brings me to the other night, when we were walking to the subway. I had rushed out of the apartment, forgetting my gloves and it was freezing cold. My partner grabbed my hand and held it inside his coat pocket and we walked like that all the way to the station. I know it's not much, but for us, it's a start.


Jolie said...

I'm going to have my husband read this. He could hold my hand more...especially since it's good for me.

I remember one time you were visiting me in Portland and we went to a laser light show at OMSI. We were sitting next to two women and they were holding hands/snuggling. You were in such awe. I was dismissive because it's common to see same sex couple showing public displays of affection here. It was no big deal for me. I think for you it made a lasting impression. This was years before you came out. I didn't realize at the time how this would affect differently since you are gay.

It is really such a shame that people choose to hurt others because of sexual orientation. I would like to believe that we are past the age of fearing that being gay is contagious or a choice. Aren't we evolved enough to believe the plethora of scientific evidence showing that people are born with their sexual orientation already decided? Basically people need to boil all of this down to one simple thing: Be nice to your fellow human. If we can all do that, then the tension surrounding sex, race, religion, etc. will melt away.

I believe the next generation will walk easily and comfortably on the road that the pioneers of this generation paved for them. They will live in an era where Will and Grace is as racy as All in the Family is now. A world where you don't have to second guess the thought of holding your loved one's hand.

Lance Noe said...

so the Beatles WERE geniuses after all. WOW! will wonders never cease.

abogado-david said...

There is so much to say on the "gay thing," but I have to say AMEN to Jolie's creed--Be nice to your fellow human--which is just a slight variation of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) Most of us deal with lots of people who are different than us or even that has some aspect in their lives that annoys us or we don't like: Arrogant cops, alcoholics, anorexics, fat people, Jehova's Witnesses, immigrants, promiscuous people, pious people, people driving while talking on hand-held cell phones, people playing music we don't like down the hall or the street, the homeless, bureaucrats, lawyers who show up at the courthouse everyday and just stand there waiting for someone to hire them, used car salesmen, nasty insurance adjusters, that one member of your in-laws that you don't *dislike* but just have NOTHING to talk about with at holidays, people who have no idea they have horrible B.O., hypocondriachs, people who think they know everything but really don't know anything, people with no sense of humor, people who laugh at ANYTHING you say, domestic abusers, drug addicts, teenagers with major attitudes, disillusioned veterans who insist voting is pointless. Do normal people think that it is remotely okay to physically or verbally attack any of these folks? No, of course not. I'm sorry folks, but there are SO many more phenomena in our society which are more harmful and offensive than a gay couple minding their own business. If you don't like something about someone--fine. But be nice anyway.

wendy said...

Chris and I are constant companions. Holding hands comes so naturally to us - especially as walkers - sans car - it seems like the only way to travel. And how I take such a simple, yet intimate gesture for granted. Hand holding in the last three years has now become a family event as our little one likes to be in the middle. As he onces so innocently put it "a mommy and daddy sandwich".