Was the John Snow Kiss-in an Over-reaction?

john snow kiss in

Outrage spread through the LGB community and the media when two men were allegedly asked to leave a pub for a simple peck on the lips. We think to ourselves “How awful!”, and “Surely we’ve moved on?” as we prepare to scrawl frantic words on placards.

But hold it!

Guys and gals, let’s face it. We have pretty much everything we need to reach social equality.

We have adoption, (almost have) marriage, equal age of consent and protection from discrimination. Gays are now free to come out in most professions including politics and entertainment. Schools teach about equality, homosexuals can serve in the military and we have most of the major parties almost pandering to our every need.

We really need to bear that in mind whenever something like this happens.

I’m not here to comment on the legality of kicking gays out of pubs; I’m no law expert and don’t pretend to be one. But what happened itself, and the LGB community’s response, is rather symptomatic of current trends in gay rights.

Perhaps the law has run a bit ahead of society- LGB individuals have all this equality, but there is still a slightly cool reception from the public when it comes to LGBT issues. The sight of two men in kissing in a pub yields a response of “you’re making our customers feel uncomfortable, can you please leave”, as opposed to the usual eye-rolling a straight couple would get if they did the same. This is certainly not equality, and smacks a little of ghettoising.

But you have to admit: the LGB community’s reaction was a bit…well…reactionary. Staging a 700-strong kiss-in and being given prime-time news coverage, it all seems a bit over-the-top. There’s no doubt the lack of full societal acceptance when gays are being asked to leave pubs, but what with all the legislation that protects us there really isn’t much we can practically do. This is not to say we shouldn’t disapprove, but a “kiss-in”? Reminiscent of sit-in’s, the tactic used by Gandhi and also during the 60s in the civil rights movement. It seems a tad hysterical, and extremely juvenile.

This sort of tactic is probably doing more harm than good. Given our questionable representation in the media as it is, do we really need to propel ourselves into the spotlights with this bizarre outburst? Given how gays are too-often associated only with promiscuity and hysteria we really don’t need this to fuel this fire. All our hysteria achieves is making a laughing-stock of ourselves.

The final steps we need to take for social equality cannot be achieved by lobbying or protest, and certainly cannot be achieved by drawing negative attention to gays in peculiar stunts like this. The battle for equality is slow and drawn out- you don’t change minds overnight. What we really need to do is simply get on with our lives and show that being gay is inherently just a preference, and that there’s little difference between a gay couple and a straight one.

I’m sure people will accuse me of being self-hating or homophobe-sympathising, but this is hardly true. What I want is for gays to be accepted to the point where any two gay men can hold hands in the street and not feel threatened or uncomfortable in any way. And this really doesn’t seem like the right tactic.

Maybe it’s time to just keep calm and carry on. Brush it off our shoulders and act like the grown-ups we want to be treated like, instead of being our own worst enemy.

Stuart Benefield



  1. Kitty Stryker

    I think being told you’re being obscene for kissing your lover is ridiculous regardless of gender. As someone who has been to that pub and kissed male and female lovers with impunity, I think this suggests the usual “girl on girl = hot, boy on boy = gross” dichotomy that really needs to be challenged. Until “gayness” and “queerness” is as omnipresent as “straightness” is, I don’t think, as an anthropologist or psychologist, it will be widely accepted.

    • Anonymous

      I agree Kitty, the “”girl on girl = hot, boy on boy = gross” dichotomy” that you refer to is really interesting and definitely true. Thanks for the great comment.

  2. It’s a bit simplistic to say homosexuality is discussed in schools. On the whole, it still isn’t. And in faith schools it isn’t discussed at all because there are laws that allow them to teach according to their faith. Which means very basic sex ed and no mention of homosexuality (or in the case of my school some years ago in an RE class- don’t do it, it’s against the bible.)

    I have also worked in schools, teaching. Plenty have the ‘it’s okay to be gay’ posters and such, but that is simply it. And in one I was told to keep my own sexuality a secret. This is still the case across the majority of schools – if you’re gay, you keep your mouth shut.

    Interesting points but please don’t skim over things so glibly.

    • Stuart Benefield

      Guidelines recommend PSHE lessons include discussions on homosexuality and homophobia and as far as I’m aware, it’s the norm for schools to take it up.

      I cant say I immediately thought about it, but it’s true- faith schools are, and always have been, a law unto themselves in terms of teaching PSHE and religious studies related things. That’s certainly something that needs to be looked at!

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