Campus Lovin’: Showing affection different for LGBTQ couples

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

It’s not uncommon to see couples holding hands and exchanging quick kisses at the U. However, queer students said they feel as if they can’t express their love as openly as their heterosexual peers without receiving cold stares in return.

U students Bonnie Owens and Heather Franck have been dating for almost two years. Franck, a senior in art specializing in photography, and Owens, a senior in gender studies, said they spend the majority of their time on campus in “queer-friendly locations” so they don’t need to hide their feelings or actions. Both are active members in the queer community, so they don’t have to worry about their sexual identity being revealed because someone sees them holding hands or kissing.

Other members of the U’s queer community shared the same feelings about the acceptance of couples on campus.

“Public displays of affection to me shouldn’t go beyond a peck on the cheek or hand holding, but if people do, it’s OK,” said Ian Vilisoni Palu, a sophomore in geography education.

Palu said he thinks lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples on campus could show the same affection as heterosexual couples, but “there would still be a hostile silence.”

Because of societal pressures, Palu said, queer couples aren’t allowed to openly express their relationship unless they are purposefully making a statement of resistance.

“You mostly deal with stares in Utah,” Owens said. “People aren’t going to come up to you and say something. The stares can get intimidating, and you have to be able to gauge the situation, but we don’t let them affect our relationship.”

They think campus is accepting of their relationship but that they still have to be conscious of how and when they show their affection for each other, they said.

“I’m much more comfortable showing affection than Bonnie,” Franck said. “But we stay downtown or in Sugar House when we go out because they are the safest places. We tend to avoid Sandy or West Valley where the people are more conservative.”

The way to avoid stares, Owens said, is by attending queer-friendly businesses and events where she and Franck are surrounded by like-minded people, such as gay friendly clubs, theatres and neighborhoods. Owens said she and Franck don’t feel limited to only those places because of their sexual identities.

“Heather and I like going to movies and dinner like anyone else,” Franck said. “By showing people we’re not ashamed of what we do in public and private, it lets others know that they shouldn’t be ashamed either.”

Both said they feel empowered when they can share their feelings for each other whenever they like and hope others can feel more comfortable doing so, too.

“I think on campus there is a safe climate, but as a queer student there is always a hesitancy to fully express myself,” said Kevin Ingraham, a senior in gender studies and president of the Queer Student Union. “In Salt Lake it is easy to be out and open. I always feel comfortable.”

Despite legislative actions such as Amendment Three, which would prohibit any union other than the marriage between a man and a women, the queer community of Utah considers Salt Lake City as gay friendly.

Mike Thompson, director of Equality Utah, a grassroots advocacy organization, said that Salt Lake City is a very progressive city, and the only barriers gay couples have on their displays of affection are the ones they place on themselves.

“I don’t think displays of affection are an issue for couples,” Thompson said. “It’s up to the couples to choose how much they display in public.”

[email protected]

Bonnie Owens

To avoid awkward stares and uncomfortable situations, Bonnie Owens and Heather Franck spend most of their time in “queer-friendly locations” on campus and around town.