‘If you surround yourself with negative people, you’ll never feel settled in or become an equal.’
- Jessie J
I was meandering through the city park, watching the young couples frolicking in the midsummer heat, when I caught glimpse of a pair of teenage boys exchanging a kiss beneath the boughs of an overhanging fruit tree. Outside of the safety of gay pride it’s such a rarity to see a gay couple openly kissing in broad daylight, and yet there they were, lay out in the middle of the park, not caring what anybody would think.
Watching them made my heart soar with pride and filled my blood with a fiery passion, they reminded me of everything I believe in, everything I want to be, and everything I am. It was those boys that stuck in my mind as the sun began to drop from the sky and I sunk into the warm inviting waters of the grand Turkish bath. I slowly breathed in my palatial surroundings, took effortless sips from my Pina Colada and watched the evening sun ripple over the bronze skin of the lifeguard as I reminisced about romances gone by. I was truly at peace.
And then a loud splash drenched me, completely interrupting my relaxation as an obese man hurled his child into the centre of the hot tub. He slapped his grotesque stomach, laughed obnoxiously, fished his spluttering son from the water, and then did it again.
With every splash he further diluted my delicious cocktail until I was drinking nothing but warm bath water. I eyed the other hot-tub-goers and in silent unison we declared our hatred for him. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and tried to ignore his presence, but the harrowing shrieks of his child demanded my attention as he was hurled over the wall and into the fast flowing rapids pool below.
I watched in horror for a moment as the child’s cries were replaced with an inaudible spluttering as he was tumbled around helplessly like a rag-doll in a wash cycle; I looked around for the lifeguard but he was nowhere in sight, I looked at the father who was still cackling menacingly and unwilling to help, and then I looked back to the child as he became nothing more than a writhing figure thrashing beneath the waves.
I couldn’t take it any more, my inner teacher, my inner father, my inner humanitarian kicked in- I shot the father a look of disgust and then leapt over the wall after the small child, pulling him screaming and terrified from the waters. He wrapped his tiny arms around my shoulders and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, and just as I safely rested him down at the edge of the pool I took the abuse from his father head on.
Paedophile. Faggot. Pervert.
As a gay teacher the words stung like hot acid- perhaps it’s true that we have an obsession with youth, I even faced the challenge of having a crush on one of my eighteen year old students, but wrongly accusing us of paedophilia is what prevents us teaching across the globe.
The moment I heard that word, all I could see was red. I thought of the boys exchanging an innocent kiss in the park, and if anything what followed was for them. Uncharacteristically inappropriate remarks flew from my lips and I spat profanity like a truck driver. I wasn’t proud of it, especially not with the young child in proximity of my vulgar mouth, but when those around me came to my rescue, chiming in with biting comments of their own, I felt overwhelmed with appreciation.
And then a sharp whistle blew and I spun around to see the Adonis of a lifeguard coming to my rescue. A small ripple of applause sounded across the courtyard as he left the still spluttering child in the safety of his mother’s arms and removed the man from the premises.
Nobody knew my sexuality, yet still to have them come to my aid in the face of homophobia filled me with a warm feeling of acceptance. I suddenly felt the courage to be as open and free as the boys in the park, and had the lifeguard not had a preference for women, I would have almost definitely invited him to come for a walk on the green.