I posted this in a forum a little while back, but I thought I'd repost it here in slightly edited form. So there.

I want to describe something that I saw at an airport lounge before flying home to the UK.

There was this family, or at least I think they were a family, or a couple of families. Lots of boys, looked like they ranged from about 13-18. The youngest one of the group was also clearly the recipient of the majority of the brotherly bullying, which was largely homophobic style bullying. The kid was clearly trying to laugh it off but was also getting increasingly annoyed with his brothers, who were greatly amused by this and it only goaded them on.

And I started thinking ‘well, boys will be boys’ or whatever, but then I realised that that attitude… it’s really one sided, isn’t it?

If the 13 year old kid is straight, those experiences he will grow out of, most likely, and he may even look back at them as a rite-of-passage sort of thing. He’ll almost certainly grow up thinking gay people are strange and undesirable to associate with, because his brothers have spent a large portion of his teenage years teaching him just that. He’ll likely grow out of that, too, though, though it’ll be harder because he’ll have to revisit his own preconceptions, and he’ll probably say some hurtful things to other people on the way. Or maybe he won’t grow out of it. Either way, in the short term, the cycle continues, nothing changes, status quo.

If the kid is gay, then he’s being told on a daily basis that he’s worth less than them because of it: at best it’s funny that he’s gay, at worst it’s disgusting. He’s young, maybe he doesn’t know his sexuality yet - if he starts having gay feelings, maybe he’ll spend some time in denial because he doesn’t think he’s like whatever his brothers were making fun of. And so on.

Those are some of the milder things that could happen to him.  What if he's more emotionally fragile than that? What if he begins to dread what would happen if anyone ever found out? Let's not beat around the bush here. Some gay people commit suicide because they are so confused by or scared of their own feelings that they feel like it's their only way out. And the seeds of that are planted in exactly the kind of episode I described above.

Yet my first reaction was ‘boys will be boys’. It’s probably most people’s last reaction. They look at their own life, and realise that they used to take part or be a victim of this sort of thing before growing up, and it never did them any harm, and besides, they're not homophobic now . They fail to realise that the harm is almost all one-way. 

Frankly, it's an attitude that stinks. In fact it's probably the very kind of attitute creates societies that make much more troubling issues such as violence and legislation against minorities thrive. And perhaps some people feel put out by that thought. Perhaps they feel like people are trying to impinge on what appears to them to be harmless fun. Perhaps they even see this sort of thing as character building. 

Well, I suppose there's nothing I can do to convince them of the harm. I wish upon them dozens of gay children that perhaps they might find some empathy, I guess.

AuthorPeter Silk