Clean Hands presents an honest look at a relationship between a gay white man and a straight black woman. It is a story of race, class, sexuality, and love between two people who, in spite of their differences, are able to forge a bond that withstands the many obstacles placed before them.
After being dumped by the latest in a growing list of men he’s tried and failed to maintain a long-term relationship with, thirty-three-year-old community college English instructor Brian Daly sets up an online casual encounter with a stranger who robs and assaults him. As Brian stumbles through the streets of Center City Philadelphia trying to make his way home, he collapses and is helped by good Samaritan Olivia Carter.
Having recently moved from her hometown of Detroit to her husband’s hometown of Philadelphia, Olivia is slowly finding her way around a city that is strikingly different from the Motor City. Although the twenty-eight-year-old misses her friends and family in Detroit and has a rocky relationship with her in-laws, she is determined to build a life for herself in the City of Brotherly Love.
After coming to Brian’s aid, Olivia and he become friends. Brian, whose social circle is overwhelming white and male, finds himself drawn to Olivia, a black woman with whom he feels comfortable in a way that he never has with a woman or any person of color. Despite teaching a largely black, female student body, he often feels estranged from and frustrated by them. But he recognizes his own cultural shortcomings and sees his relationship with Olivia as a progressive step in the right direction.
Olivia is drawn to Brian also. She’s curious about his sexual orientation and wants to know more about the way her gay white friend lives his life. She too has lived amongst a largely homogeneous group of people and feels her friendship with Brian is an attempt to break out of her racial and social comfort zones.
Brian and Olivia’s relationship is tested when her marriage falls apart and she turns to him for emotional support. In one drunken night, their relationship moves from platonic to sexual and the aftermath is difficult for them both to handle.