Imagine a man and woman walking down the street, holding hands. Adorable, right? A gesture of love and affection for each other. You probably wouldn’t even look twice.

Now imagine a man holding hands with another man. Suddenly it’s different. Now you might look at least twice.

Lots of people have an opinion about men holding hands. Some stare, others make hateful remarks. Some people even prevent their children from looking because they find it damaging. An affectionate gesture is sweet for one couple, but a safety risk for another.

Around ten years ago, I was holding hands with my boyfriend at the time, in public in the Netherlands. I was a naive and ignorant young teenager, because I didn’t expect to be publicly shamed by people on the street for holding hands with another man.

People yelled at us and we quickly let go of each other’s hands, walking faster to get away from them. At that point, I chose not to show affection in public to another man.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an openly gay man and definitely not ashamed of who I am. However, showing affection public is a whole new level and it takes bravery for people from the LGBT+ community to do this.

Why? Because it’s a risk to our personal safety. In 2017, gay men are still abused for exactly this, everywhere in the world (including the Netherlands). Incidents like that are my reasons for choosing not to show affection in public.

What I really want is to just feel safe and normal when I want to hold hands with another man. But such a mundane gesture becomes an act of bravery and vigilance for me.

I know the world is changing and I believe people are changing as well. Lots of countries have legalised gay marriage and the community is growing stronger each and every day.

But I can’t help but wonder what kind of world we live in where two men holding guns is more normal than two men holding hands?

Rocher Koendjbiharie, master student International Public Management & Policy