Meet the Couple Fighting Anti-Gay Hate, One Kiss a Day
The Orlando killer was reportedly enraged by men kissing—which led Denis Farr and his partner to an Instagram campaign doing precisely that.
“If posting these will normalize gay and same-sex love, I will keep doing it,” the Chicago-based technical writer promised.
So far, he has stayed true to his word. Farr has posted one kissing photo every day for seven weeks, with plans to keep going until he’s posted 365 of them. Each of them is captioned with the #TwoMenKissing hashtag, which first emerged in response to reports that Mateen had been enraged by the sight of gay men locking lips shortly before the Orlando massacre.
“Whether or not that is true, it very much felt like it could be,” Farr told The Daily Beast. “Despite living in a Chicago neighborhood that has many LGBTQ establishments and is very friendly otherwise, my boyfriend and I can still have slurs yelled at us for just holding hands.”
Americans are still far more comfortable with opposite-sex displays of public affection than they are with same-sex PDA. Almost 30 percent of non-LGBT Americans feel discomfort at a same-sex couple holding hands, according to a recent GLAAD survey.
And a 2014 study in the American Sociological Review found that only 55 percent of heterosexual respondents approved of a gay male couple kissing on the cheek in public—even though they largely approved of the couple having hospital visitation and inheritance rights. When asked about an opposite-sex couple sharing a peck on the cheek, their approval rose to 95 percent.
Also troubling is the fact that gay men themselves echo this disapproval of same-sex PDA. The 2014 study found that gay men were “significantly less approving of [a] gay couple kissing on the cheek and French kissing compared to [a] a heterosexual couple”—a finding that the authors chalked up to “internalized stigma” and “safety concerns.”
For Farr, it is the latter obstacle that he and Eusch have had to face.
“There are moments when Pete and I will just pause and exchange a moment of acknowledgment that we may be in a place where we may not be safe,” he told The Daily Beast. “It’s that internal safety indicator that I’m assuming most minorities experience.”
Farr has taken a handful of his 365 #TwoMenKissing photos at home but, for the most part, he and Eusch, a technical support analyst, have snapped them in public at locations like comic stores, coffee shops, beaches, and parks.
They have kissed on camera while marching in the Chicago Pride Parade, while walking through the train station, and while playing Pokemon Go on Hollywood Beach.
The couple tends to choose locations where they feel completely protected, although that may change as the project expands.
The project also reminds Farr that he and Eusch can feel secure in places where the mostly Latino victims of the Pulse shooting might not have found the same security.
“It serves as a reminder to me how how certain privileges of my own allow me to move through spaces in a different manner,” he said.
But like many in the LGBT community, Farr was deeply affected by the Pulse massacre on a personal level. Starting the #TwoMenKissing project has helped him focus on finding a way forward—for himself and for a country that is still unaccustomed to witnessing same-sex affection.
“For several nights after Orlando, Pete and I would discover some new detail and it would set off a new set of tears,” he said. “This was something to give my mind an escape that felt like it wasn’t just pure escapism. It was something through which I could share happiness, and an expression of love.”
So far, that love has been well-received in the Windy City.
Farr and Eusch tag the businesses and neighborhoods they kiss in on Instagram, often receiving kind comments as a result. Strangers have even offered to take the kissing photos so that Farr doesn’t have to use the selfie stick he begrudgingly purchased—“a decision I did not weigh lightly,” he joked to The Daily Beast.
But even after a tragedy like Orlando, the stigma surrounding same-sex PDA remains as strong as ever.
Farr, a self-professed sci-fi nerd, points to the controversy around Sulu being gay in Star Trek Beyond as an example. Although the decision to reveal Sulu’s sexual orientation has drawn praise from LGBT Trekkies, John Cho recently told Vulture that a kiss between Sulu and his male partner was cut from the final version of the film.
“There was a kiss that I think is not there anymore,” the actor said. “It wasn’t like a make-out session. We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss.”
The cut recalls several examples of the media nominally supporting gay couples while keeping their affection for each other out of the spotlight: CBS cutting away from same-sex kisses during the on-stage wedding ceremony at the 2014 Grammys, the conspicuous infrequency of Mitchell-Cameron kisses on GLAAD award-winning Modern Family, and more.
“It’s just a reminder that media, even when it does have same-sex partnerships, often does not allow expressions of love between them,” said Farr.
In fact, Americans are so used to not seeing same-sex affection that a show like How to Get Away With Murder can shock by simply depicting gay love as normal. And when networks do broadcast same-sex lip-locking, they can face backlash.
For example, as The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman reported, 60 percent of respondents to a YouGov poll approved of the St. Louis Rams signing the first openly gay football player Michael Sam but only 36 percent said it was “appropriate” for ESPN to air Sam’s celebratory kiss with his partner.
In his own small way, Farr hopes that his kissing project can help make up for the relative invisibility of same-sex kissing. That’s why he committed to a full year.
“It felt like if I wanted to make a comment on how this is rare enough to be able to establish such a strong [antagonistic] reaction, I’d rather respond by flooding through with a lot of pictures,” he told The Daily Beast.
It has been less than two months since the Orlando shooting. The mass killings will continue and the LGBT community will face new challenges but, day by day, Farr and Eusch will keep chipping away at the stigma that makes too many men like them afraid.