Q: Was there anything improper about the lesbian couple who held hands at the Cameron Village mall in Raleigh, kissed each other lightly and then were asked by a security officer to leave the premises?
A: I read about this story too, and no, they weren't doing anything wrong. I actually had a difficult time believing the entire scenario: Just as they were being sweet with each other, the guard orders them to leave. The couple pointed out that they were being singled out; straight couples cuddle in public all the time without being disrupted.
Let's be clear: The rules about showing affection publicly are the same for gay men and lesbians as they are for straight people. If there are any distinctions to be made, they're not based on sexual orientation but according to venue or situation.
But the next chapter is also key: Mall mangement was quick to apologize, if only because of the tremendous Facebook outcry, which was obviously bad for business. In the apology, also on Facebook, Cameron Village insisted that its mall is a "friendly shopping center that welcomes the entire community," concluding with this statement: "[We're] committed to maintaining an open and welcoming environment for everyone."
All's well that ends well? Indeed, except that if this incident had not been in such a progressive area—with a lot of LGBT money to take elsewhere—this apology could have been a long time coming. It's worth remembering that LGBT people exercise their political will not only at the ballot box but in the dollars we spend every day.
Q: I read recently that when the pope was visiting Spain—denouncing gay marriage—a large contingent of LGBT people staged a kiss-in. What do you think of this behavior?
A: I think it is wrong for the pontiff to condemn same-sex marriage. Is that the behavior you are asking about? As for kiss-ins, they are a well-honed political tactic in the LGBT rights movement that, while intended to be disruptive, does not aim to curb free speech or break any laws. Kiss-ins rank high among other forms of civil disobedience and political protest as a means of effecting social change or drawing attention to an issue.
But good behavior at a kiss-in includes these basic rules: You're there for a reason and it's not to hook up; it's to make a political statement. Break only one rule at a time. Don't go rogue on your comrades, (i.e., no name-calling or clashing with police). Bring your breath mints. You may be kissing a lot of strangers. Don't hog the best kissers. If everyone else is moving on to a new partner, it's time to let go.
Q: How serious should my son and his boyfriend be before we include the newcomer in our holiday celebrations?
A: Do the same as you would with your straight kids and their boyfriends or girlfriends—or follow this rule if you have none: When it seems as though the couple is serious and becoming part of your family, extend an invitation for two. Yet the entire responsibility for this important holiday detail shouldn't rest with you. Your son could make your job easier by calling or sending an e-mail saying something like, "Hey Mom, I'm really hoping that James can join us in our family celebration this year." Asking to bring home your significant other is a sign that the relationship is getting serious. If you need to know, go ahead and ask. If you both like the idea of the boyfriend joining, then you're on to deciding whether to include the boyfriend on your holiday shopping list. The answer is yes—nothing too pricey, but do pick up a small gift.
Q: I'm in college and recently started having sex with men. There's a new guy in my dorm that I've been going out with, but we haven't had sex yet. In fact, he says he won't have sex with me until I get an HIV test. I've only been with a couple of people and have always been safe. What do you think I should do?
A: No matter your age or sexual experience, it's important to be tested regularly for HIV/AIDS and other STDs if you're at all sexually active (yes, even if you've always been "safe"). Your new guy is right to ask you to take the test and share the results with him.
Sure, most of us intend to have safe sex all of the time, but condoms break, people tell untruths and drugs and alcohol can override rational thinking, leading one down the slippery slope of unsafe sex. And here's a cautionary finding from the Centers for Disease Control: College-age guys are among the most likely to be infected with HIV.