Holding hands and other shocking public acts

As a singer, I'm used to being in the spotlight. I'm paid to perform while strangers sit and stare at me. But there is another kind of attention, off stage, that's much less welcome.

A few days ago I was walking around Rome with my boyfriend. We were holding hands. If you're gay, holding hands, the most innocuous display of affection, suddenly becomes a political act. We were not kissing, wearing heels or shouting the words to Dancing Queen at top of our lungs, we were just holding hands. Most people didn't take any notice but plenty stared. That's understandable – it's still not something most people see everyday – but there were others who couldn't hide the horror on their faces. Now this might not sound like a big deal, but when all you want to do is buy an ice cream and enjoy a walk with the person you love, the unwelcome attention makes you think twice.

Gay rights have come a long way but I resent the suggestion that we should be grateful for what we have now and stop complaining. Being openly gay is still effectively illegal in more than 70 countries. Same-sex sexual acts are punishable by death in at least 11 countries including Iran, Yemen and in parts of Nigeria and Somalia. In Saudi Arabia three men were beheaded in 2002 for “homosexual behaviour” (whatever that means). Meanwhile in Uganda, the president has described homosexual people as "disgusting".

Closer to home, more than half of European Union members have not legalised gay marriage. In 2011, Hungary brought in a new constitution that specifically restricts marriage to heterosexual couples and recently the mayor of Budapest described the city's Gay Pride rally as "repulsive".

Here in the UK, Chika Amadi, a Labour councillor in Harrow, was recently suspended for calling Pride marchers “paedophiles” and threatened to unleash the “burning anger” of God on her critics. What's up with her? Just a few weeks ago Ryan Atkin became the first openly gay professional official in English football. It made headlines. Is he the only gay professional official in English football? No, but he is the only one brave enough to come out and deal with the unwelcome attention. Last year, Jesús Tomillero, a Spanish referee received death threats after revealing his sexuality.

Thirteen years ago Australia specifically defined marriage as "the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others". Now they are about to hold a plebiscite on gay marriage. It seems likely to pass but the bile coming out of the so-called Marriage Alliance is shocking, untrue and offensive.

All this just because two people of the same sex want to demonstrate their love for one another with a legally binding ceremony. Why would anyone get their knickers in a twist about that?