Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hebden Bridge: The Promise of Normalcy

I enjoyed this NPR piece today about Hebden Bridge, a small town in England where lesbians make up nearly 20% of the population. When interviewed, women from the former mill town in rural Yorkshire said that the attraction of Hebden Bridge was an environment where same-sex couples could simply exist without attracting too much attention. One woman commented that she enjoyed living in a community where her daughter would not have to constantly explain the concept of having two mommies to classmates - where there would actually be other kids with a family like hers.

The piece did illicit one sad laugh from me, though. Reporter Viki Barker began a question, "Why do you think these gay women..."
Yet, before Barker could add the expected second clause - perhaps something along the lines of "find this community so appealing," the local woman being interviewed interrupted with an answer to the question she assumed she was being asked, responding "'Cause they can't find the right fella.'"

(image via the BBC)

UPDATE: For more on how homophobia get in the way of lesbian couples' ability to 'just be,' read this amazing discussion of PDA and straight privilege posted over at Shakesville by PortlyDyke.


Mächtige Maus said...

Thanks LaPH for your post and for pointing me to the PortlyDyke post! I still have to check out NPR.

I must admit, I am often oblivious to stares on the street because I have found that it is very draining on me. It becomes very old trying to find a way to deal with other's negative perceptions of my sexual orientation. This is even without the PDA issue.

I look gay. Or, at the very least, I don't look particularly feminine. That alone goes against societal expectations. Beyond that, however, without a doubt I am hesitant to draw attention to myself. I am very out both with friends and coworkers. In public though, it is not often I feel comfortable holding hands with my partner.

In all honesty, it isn't the stares that bother me (again since I've given up wasting my time noticing them), but rather the potential ass-kicking that could come with it. And I do not jest with that statement. The last time I felt comfortable holding hands in public with another woman was when I was living in Philadelphia. That was over ten years ago.

So, kudos to normalcy in Hebden Bridge. I will have to be content with living vicariously through them for the time being. If any of the lesbians up that way are reading this post, next time you are waiting at the cross-walk give your partner a kiss in public in my honor.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Wow, Maus - thanks for posting the above comment. It is another one of those moments for me when I have to admit that I hadn't thought about how 'not looking feminine' might attract attention that would get draining.

"In all honesty, it isn't the stares that bother me (again since I've given up wasting my time noticing them), but rather the potential ass-kicking that could come with it." I think that a lot of people don't realize how present that sort of threat of harassment or violence is. It is really heartbreaking to realize how far we still have to go before our society is really free for everyone.