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That Time My Little Brother Saw Me Experience Homophobia

That Time My Little Brother Saw Me Experience Homophobia

His reaction to me being bullied was surprising.


Growing up small, skinny, and feminine, I became accustomed to the violence of disgusted, lingering stares, vitriol slithering from quiet mouths, and angry male voices telling me, without saying it, that I was worth less than them. This reality made me bitter long before a person is supposed to get that way. I learned to be cautious, untrusting, and ready to read someone at the drop of a hat. I became the kind of person who picked someone's flaws out--especially men, who were always my oppressors--the moment I met them, just in case I needed them later.

My big mouth and put-on confidence kept me free from bullying but that doesn't mean strangers wouldn't try me every once in a while. Most of my life I did an extraordinary job of keeping this part of my life hidden from those who cared for me the most. People in my family often wondered why I was so cold, unforgiving, and quick to snap because they didn't know how I felt and couldn't begin to comprehend the layers of oppression I'd experienced since the day I first swished my hips and opened my mouth in school.

No facade, no lie, can last forever. Slowly but surely, and particularly when I started writing online, the people in my life began to unravel small pieces of the puzzle. They began to see that my reality was rife with conflict and unwarranted attacks for the sheer fact of existing. I wasn't happy for people to know because I never wanted pity or people to think my strength of character was a product of the negativity of others. But I could handle it, I could deal. What I wasn't ready for, however, was for my little brother, fresh to the sixth grade, to see the homophobia I deal with, up close and personal.

The day started out fine enough. There is nothing that really stands out on a day that was perfectly normal as far as days go. On that day, around 2:40 p.m., I leave my house, along with my partner who was visiting for the day, to go pick up my little brother from school. The walk is only ten minutes but I like to be there at least five minutes before he gets out, just in case. The bell rings and soon enough the three of us are walking home, talking about upcoming video games and how unhealthy it is that his backpack is so heavy.

We stop at a light and I swear I notice some hard eye contact coming from a high school boy in a vehicle that looks awfully familiar. I bite my tongue and say nothing to my little brother or partner because I'm already known for being sexist against men. I tell myself that I'm being paranoid because the person was a boy and that maybe I should relax. The light turns green, for the cars. They proceed by and as the familiar vehicle passes by, they shout an insult about my partner's hair as they drive quickly by.

It was then that I remembered why that vehicle seemed so familiar. They shout stuff at me all the time.

Neither my partner or my little brother react. I'm quiet as we wait for our green light, and suddenly I scream inside my mouth and clench my fists. They both look at me. I look at my partner and tell him how angry I am, how I'm angry that people always feel the need to harass others, how weak they are for saying it when they drove by and not when they were stopped in traffic (in which case I would've definitely walked right up to their car and hurt some feelings), and how I'm angrier that they said something to him than if they'd said something to me. He shrugs it off and gestures towards my little brother with his eyes.

I forget myself for a second. I probably shouldn't be overreacting in front of him. I try to explain myself, telling him that I'm just upset because only cowards shout stuff when they drive by and that cowards just frustrate me. He calmly agrees with a nod as we finally get the light and cross the street.

I feel like the air is cleared as the yellow bus my brother could ride drives up to us. Three little, white boys--whom I specify are white only combat the idea that POC communities are dominantly homophobic--are leaning out the window calling to my little brother. He waves to them and quietly mutters a hello, obviously suggesting to me that he's not genuinely close with any of them. I smile, though, happy at least to see that there are other kids that like him in school. But my smile lasts for all of two seconds.

"Gayyyy," I hear one of the children shout.

My partner and little brother are quiet. I look over to my partner, a look of confusion on my face. "Did they just say what I think they said," I ask. He nods solemnly. Immediately I can feel my blood boiling. We're waiting at another light, the bus with the children a few cars behind us. Twice in a two-minute period, someone shouts something at me or someone I care about. We haven't said or done anything to anyone. All we'd even been doing is walking.

In an instant I'm spiraling into my hatred for males and how they feel the need to dominate every space that they're in, and how they portray women as being cruel, manipulative, and dark when history itself proves that the world is in ruin by the hands of men. I hate the men who raise boys to be the men they are, who will raise even more boys to be hateful.

I snap. The bus starts to drive, beginning to pass us by as we walk. I flip the children off and shout some obscenities about their mothers, which I won't repeat here. Unsurprisingly, they had no remarks or comments as the bus drove by. My partner tries to calm me down, reminding me once again that my little brother is with us.

I wonder what he thinks. What he feels. Does he think I'm weak? Is he embarrassed of me? Did the confrontation make him uncomfortable? I pull myself together and try to explain to him, without going Sociology and Queer Politics 101 on a middle schooler, that males are programmed to attack people like me because they're taught that femininity is bad. I tell him that I make them uncomfortable and that they attack because they don't know what else to do. I tell him that I shouldn't have cussed.

I text my mom and explain what happened. She gets home and I go upstairs and cry. I'm ashamed that I let a child get to me but I'm just tired of me or people I care about getting attacked. My partner consoles me and I finally quiet down as my mom gets home and I hear my little brother talking to her. He tells her what happened and says that he can't stand those boys who shouted at me. He says he's not afraid to fight if that boy messes with him or me ever again.

I'm shocked. This is a child who likes to play Minecraft, enjoys peace and quiet, and is mature for his age. I've never seen him aggressively angry before and to think it came out of him in defense of me. Part of me is overjoyed and full of love and the other half hurts. I don't want him to take my anger. I don't want to make him bitter like the world made me. I settle on the fact that his anger is coming from a place of love and that I'll always be nearby to stop him if it ever goes too far.

A few days later, my little brother is called into the principal's office. He explains what happened with confidence, telling her that he was walking with, "My brother and his boyfriend," without hesitation or shame. The other boys don't bother him, at all, and we don't see any children leaning out the bus windows anymore.

I never wanted my brother to see me experience homophobia. I didn't want him to see me vulnerable or see me not as his cool, mysterious, in-control older sibling. But when he did, he showed me his heart. He braved rejection from his fellow boy peers, who are not only male but also Catholic. He showed his courage and I'm so proud of him. I have a little brother who loves me for who I am, and that gives me hope for the future. If more parents raise thoughtful children like him, the world will have more defenders than attackers, and we can all live in a reality where we're safe from harassment.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Buffy Flores

Aries/Taurus cusp, Latinx, vegan, femme person, and the biggest Buffy fan you know. Now writing for Bustle, PRIDE, Everyday Feminism, and The Rumpus. Passionate, deeply feeling, sometimes angry, mostly emotional. Wants to make people feel less lonely in the world. Follow them on Twitter @buffyonabudget.

Aries/Taurus cusp, Latinx, vegan, femme person, and the biggest Buffy fan you know. Now writing for Bustle, PRIDE, Everyday Feminism, and The Rumpus. Passionate, deeply feeling, sometimes angry, mostly emotional. Wants to make people feel less lonely in the world. Follow them on Twitter @buffyonabudget.