In a recent study conducted by Pride Wide in partnership with Barefoot Wine, a distressing trend among British LGBTQ+ individuals has come to light. The survey, which gathered responses from 1,063 LGBTQ+ people in the UK between September 22 and October 9, 2023, sheds light on a troubling issue. It was found that a significant majority of respondents, approximately 67 percent, have refrained from holding hands with their partners in public over the past year, all out of fear of encountering a negative response.
The Impact of Rising Hate Crimes
This revelation comes at a time when the United Kingdom is witnessing a surge in LGBTQ+ hate crime rates. High-profile incidents, such as the harassment of a lesbian couple on the London Underground and threats directed at Drag Race UK star Pixie Polite, have further underscored the urgency of addressing this issue. The attack on two men outside the Two Brewers in Clapham has also added to the growing concerns within the LGBTQ+ community.
Hiding Identities Out of Fear
In a poignant testament to the extent of fear, some LGBTQ+ individuals have begun concealing their identities in public spaces. Even seemingly innocuous acts, like wearing rainbow socks, have been met with trepidation. As podcast host and comedian James Barr laments, “I’ll be really nervous to put rainbow socks on. You just think, I don’t want to give someone an excuse.”
Mixed Emotions Surrounding Hand-Holding
The research also delves into the emotional nuances of hand-holding among LGBTQ+ couples. While a significant portion reported feeling loved (51 percent), proud (48 percent), and in-sync or connected (43 percent) when holding hands, it also evoked self-consciousness (33 percent), anxiety (30 percent), and a sense of being unsafe (23 percent).
The Power of Visibility
Remarkably, eight in 10 LGBTQ+ individuals (83 percent) agreed that hand-holding serves as a powerful act of visibility. Nearly half (43 percent) expressed feeling validated and safer when witnessing others holding hands in public spaces. An overwhelming 85 percent expressed a desire to see more LGBTQ+ couples openly holding hands.
Scott Nunn, co-founder and creative director of Pride Wide, commented on the research, emphasizing the importance of addressing this issue: “Our survey gives new insights into why holding hands is so important, and we will use the results to promote a Britain where everyone can hold hands with confidence.”
These findings cast a stark light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in the UK, where recent Home Office data reveals a 41 percent rise in sexual orientation hate crimes and a 56 percent increase in transgender hate crimes in England and Wales. The need for greater acceptance, understanding, and safety for LGBTQ+ individuals in public spaces is undeniably pressing.