Awkward Encounters – What Would You Do?

Apologies for the gap in between posts – leaving my phone (with all of my London Pride pics!) down in Essex has put a hold on my planned posts! However, as my cousin had her English wedding reception this weekend just passed, I can now upload pictures from the wedding. Whilst planning a nice post about how amazing the wedding was and how lovely it was to see my family and Kita’s friends, I remembered something else that happened whilst I was in Italy…

Without going into too many details, my littlest cousin started secondary school last year. He’s now nearly 12, and super cute, although he’s also just about coming into the teenage tantrums stage – but generally, he’s a really good kid. He loves football, idolises my brother and is doted on by his two older sisters. I don’t get to see him particularly often – even when I do get to visit home, he’s often buy playing football or on his scooter to come and sit with me – but even so, he managed to surprise me when we were away.

The view from the water taxi on the way to the wedding - Lake Como, Italy

Imagine the scene – most of the family are walking down the promenade which runs parallel to the lake. We’d just had some lunch, it was extremely warm and we were all returning to the pool to doze having just consumed lots of pizza. As we were walking along, we caught up with a trio of young (Italian?) boys who were larking about. They must have been a little younger than my cousin – perhaps 9 or 10 – but not substantially. One of the boys had on a pair of rather colourful, tight short swimming shorts. I must admit, that I did look twice at his choice of swimwear, but then I shrugged. Our British sensibilities are often challenged in mainland Europe!

However, my little cousin glanced up at me, made an-almost-disgusted face, and said out loud and clearly to me, “gay boy”. It was obvious from the way that he said it that it was a derogatory statement, that he was passing judgement on this kid, and that he’d decided, just from looking at him that he MUST be gay. And that was a Bad Thing.

The View from our Hotel - Lake Como, Italy

That time around, I didn’t say anything, but I was shocked at such a homophobic statement from an 11 year old (let alone an 11 year-old that I love, very much!). Our family was nearby and I didn’t want to argue with him about how wearing short shorts doesn’t make a little boy gay – and how it wouldn’t matter if he were anyway.

But on the plane on the way back from Milan, my little cousin once again made a comment – this time about the cabin manager of the aircraft – who happened to be a man. I had jokingly asked my cousin if he’d like to be an air steward, and he replied ‘No, he probably kisses boys!”. This time I was better prepared, and managed to fashion an answer – “How do you know? Have you seen him kiss any boys?’ – which he admitted that he hadn’t – but it didn’t seem to change his opinion.

Carley and her Mum - Lake Como, Italy Wedding
My mum and I on route to the wedding

I worry that kids who say things like that (at age 11!) are the kids who are going to be mean (intentionally or inadvertently) to the kids in their schools who are gay. I have no idea how or why my little, innocent cousin has decided that being gay = being bad, or wrong. I guess it must be something about secondary school, and hanging around with new people – but I really was surprised. I guess I’m so used to being surrounded by people who are gay, or liberal, or just accepting that I forgot that everyone has an opinion on who we all sleep with – even those at age 11.

So, was he really being homophobic, or was it just a repeat of things the people around him have been saying? I doubt doubt it was wrong, but WHY? That’s what I keep coming back to – why? What would you have done in that situation?


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