Part Two: PDA (Public Displays of Acceptance)

PDA (Public Displays of Acceptance)

It is through exposure to images, ideas, and modes of behavior that we accept them as a part of the fabric of our reality. For children this kind of modeling becomes the lens through which they view the world. How many same-sex public displays of affection did any of us grow up with? In a culture that considers them deviant, where do same-sex couples find acceptance and visibility?

PDA is a series of public intervention performances that take place once a month from November 2009 through May 2010 in different neighborhoods or public spaces throughout the hosting city. For each intervention, the artists invite 50 gay and lesbian people to participate. Each gay or lesbian guest is asked to invite one straight-identified friend, family member or coworker to join him or her for the event. 50 same-sex couples are then paired up with one person identified as homosexual and the other person identified as heterosexual. All of the fifty couples perform a common “public display of affection” such as handholding or walking arm-in-arm for one hour. In part the fifty couples represent the 50 American states that currently have vastly differing laws regarding same-sex equality. This intention of this gay/straight alliance is to achieve three major objectives:

One: To create more visibility for same-sex intimacy.

Two: To give each straight participant the opportunity to “walk an hour in the shoes of their GLBTQ friend.”

Three: To create an experience of true public acceptance for the GLBTQ participants.

In a culture that is heterocentric by default, any manifestation of same-sex intimacy is suspect and subject to judgment. The simplest gestures between people of the same gender, such as holding hands in public, can cause one to become hyper-vigilant of one’s environment or to feel so uncomfortable as to not to demonstrate any public intimacy at all rather than risk ridicule or harassment. Because of this gay and lesbian members of society frequently experience society quite differently from their straight counterparts. PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF ACCEPTANCE creates a large-scale opportunity for common experience.