Public Displays of Affection With My Transgender Wife

U.A. Nigro

After spending forty something years being seen as a heterosexual woman, it took some time getting used to being out in the world with my wife and being able to reach for her hand. I hate to admit this out loud, but I was socialized to feel that same-gender affection was meant for the privacy of your own home, not for public displays of affection. Before transition, I never gave it a second thought. In malls, supermarkets, the movies, or just walking down the street. We were always holding hands or had our arms wrapped around each other. We were in love and enjoyed being affectionate towards one another and never really cared what other people thought about that.


After my wife had come out to me as transgender and started dressing as herself full time, it was a horror to go out with her in public. I was not comfortable holding her hand because I did not know what kind of reaction I would get from the people around us. Every bar or club that we went to she would get hit on by some overzealous macho man who wanted to flex his toxic masculinity our way. I found it obnoxious and annoying. On the other hand, she found it very validating. She would politely giggle and say, “No thank you, I am out with my wife.” The looks that we would get after that were mostly awful. Not many men believed that we were actually married. They thought it was all a ruse to keep them away, and some creeps thought it was an invitation for a threesome. It is one of the many reasons I bought us matching engagement and wedding bands.

That was one of my very first public displays of affection. I wanted people to know that we were together and that we have made a lifelong commitment to one another, so back off! After thinking about it for some time, I figured out that hearing negative things about gay and lesbian couples my whole life really left an unfavorable imprint in my brain. I can remember plenty of people in my life growing up saying things like, “why do the gays need to flaunt it in our faces” and “things like that should be done in the privacy of your own home.” The shame that society has put on the queer population is absolutely disgusting. There is nothing dirty or offensive about the love I have for my wife or wanting to hold her hand.


So I call bullshit! What is good for a heterosexual couple, should be good for a same-gender couple. We are all just people who are happy to be in love. There should be no shame in showing that. I admit I had to reprogram my brain to know that there was nothing vulgar about reaching for my wife in public, and it makes me angry that I even had to concisely do so. Like everything else through transition, it is a process that takes time and everyone’s journey there is different. This did not happen for me overnight, but I am overjoyed to have gotten to this place. I also aware that there are some parts of our country where PDA for same-gender couples is just dangerous. I could never live in such conservative surroundings, but to each his own.

Pride month is upon us, and it has me thinking about how much satisfaction I now derive from being openly queer. I am married to, and in love with another woman and delight in showing her off and letting other people know that she is mine. However, I don’t think pride in our relationships need to only occur one month out of the year. I am proud three hundred and sixty-five days a year and I am not ashamed to let people know it. We can only accept others after we learn to accept ourselves.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

Even today, we avoid PDAs before entering a restaurant. If we are seen as two pretty women friends, we get seated in a good spot, to be seen. If we are sern as a lesbian couple, we end up in the hidden corner, next to the kitchen or bathroom.

Erica Forman
Erica Forman

You might find this funny or ironic. When I was married and before I had transitioned full time, I would still be out in public with my wife and actually shared the same feelings you expressed here. When we met I found out my now ex-wife was bisexual, she had a comfort that I didn't quite have. So when we'd go out together as two women, if it wasn't a LGBT type of gathering, I would shy away from public displays of affections. It's so odd, she wound up confronting me about it. Like she was proud of having a same-sex partner, but I was uncomfortable with the potential scrutiny. The difference though wasn't so much straight conditioning (although a little bit), but rather I didn't wan't to attract too much scrutiny, and then get clocked or read as trans/male/queer. Even though I really still passed stealthily just fine, it was in my head. Like you, it took a conscious effort to overcome that tendency. As you know, I am totally good and Proud nowadays.

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