San Antonio. El Paso. Salt Lake City. Three cities. Three same-sex couples. All harassed and detained or arrested - for kissing.
You've heard the stories. You've read the news. The lesbian couple arrested last December. The two men who kissed on gay pride day at a now infamous Chico's Tacos restaurant in El Paso, threatened with arrest. And the gay Salt Lake City couple who kissed on the Mormon Church's Main Street Plaza, handcuffed, detained, and subsequently arrested.
You must have asked yourself, when will it stop? When will I be able to walk down the street of my hometown, holding my same-sex partner's hand? When will I be able to give my loved one a kiss - on the cheek or on the lips - without fear of intimidation or incarceration, because of our sexual orientation?
Three weeks ago, after these incidents, I called for a nationwide kiss-in - in the hope that we could reach all those people we keep talking about. People who know of queers, but don't know us. And then I reached out to a few friends - Willow Witte, co-founder of the grassroots LGBT group Join The Impact, and David Mailloux, who writes DYM SUM. We took the idea of a nationwide kiss-in, and crafted it into The Great Nationwide Kiss-In.
Now, just three weeks after I penned, "It's Time For A Nationwide Kiss-In!," the Great Nationwide Kiss-In has events planned in 50 cities. Thousands of people have joined our movement. Gay people. Straight people. Bisexual people. Transgender people. Young and old alike. In big cities, in small towns. The stories are heartwarming.
We have a few cities where high school students, without fear of their conservative, southern neighbors whose beliefs might discourage those less-courageous, wrote to us and asked us if they could organize a kiss-in in their town. Just a few days ago, we received an email from a man in Saipan. Yes, Saipan, a U.S. Territory, north of Guam. He writes,
The local LGBT community is not as visible as I believe it should be. This would give us an opportunity to let our voices be heard, to highlight our presence in this community, and to give us a political edge which we did not have before. While there is increasing acceptance of lesbians and gays here, we remain a marginal part of the wider community, and a there remains a level of shame associated with being LGBT. Most important, I want my local LGBT sisters and brothers to engage with the national and international discourse about civil and human rights. I believe this event would show our determination to stand in solidarity with our LGBT sisters and brothers in the U.S., and indeed, around the world.
Literally all over America, and in a few cities in Canada, on Saturday, August 15, at 2 PM EDT, people of every orientation, gender, and race will gather with their partners, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, better-halves and loved ones, and at the top of the hour, simply kiss.
What could be more powerful? What could send a stronger message? What would make a larger impact across this land of the free and this home of the brave, than these beautiful souls, standing up for their inalienable right to perform the most basic and beautiful of human acts? Sharing a kiss.
A kiss that many straight couples often don't even give a second thought to as they exchange that simple expression of affection - at a train station, doctor's office, department store, restaurant, movie theater, or football game.
I think of the people in larger cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and L.A., and I'm grateful they are working so hard to make The Great Nationwide Kiss-In a success. But then I think about those kids about to enter their senior year of high school in the South, organizing a kiss-in, and that man in Saipan, and those straight couples who support us so fervently they are donating their time to organize a kiss-in in their home towns. I think about them all and I realize, this isn't about kissing. It's not just about protecting the rights we already have. It's not about fighting for what's ours already.
It's about fighting against homophobia, striving to be our own best selves, and showing everyone that what is truly important begins with the ones we love. And in order for us to be our best selves - in order for every person to reach their full potential - being who we are and being able to include those we love in our lives, is more than necessary. It is essential.
To those who say "gays want to make out in public and force their lifestyles on us!," I say, bull. Many gays I know, even in big cities, still feel a bit self-conscious about giving their loved-one a kiss - or even holding hands - in public.
That simple act of giving our loved one a kiss in public is an act that, for a great many members of the LGBTQ community, especially those of us who grew up when sodomy laws were if full force, represents years of aggression against our own internalized homophobia, and years of fighting against decades of "don't rock the boat, don't embarrass anyone" training.
I spoke with one of our high school students who is organizing a Kiss-In in Atlanta. I asked him if he had concerns about organizing something that might upset some folks. His answer gave me great hope. He said, with tremendous conviction, "There are lots of things that upset some people. They'll just have to get over it." Another organizer told me she wanted to do this because she remembered not being able to hold her partner's hand in public. Her partner was a school teacher and was afraid - and had every right to be - of losing her job, just for holding hands.
On Saturday, August 15, thousands will give their partners a kiss that has more meaning in it than any passerby, any onlooker - who supports us or not - could possibly realize.
And we'll all be one step closer to the goal: Full equality - in perception, in name, and in reality, than we were just one minute, and one kiss, before.
It may be just a single, simple moment in time, yet it will be a giant leap, for all of us.
Do you know where you are going to be at 2 PM EDT on Saturday, August 15? Can you imagine doing anything more important than helping everyone see that whether we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or straight - we all deserve the right to kiss the one we love?