This is Joseph Flinders, 21, with his sister Lola, 11. He's a radio producer from Manchester.
Yesterday, after Lola told him a boy at school had said it was "disgusting" she had a gay brother, Flinders posted this open letter to the boy on Facebook. He included the photo shown above.
The post, in full, reads:
An open letter to the odious little toad who gave my baby sister a hard time for having a gay big brother. I just wanted to give an example of what a decent upbringing looks like. This is a photo I took of us at the gay pride parade, which she asked to attend with me. I think that's pretty cool of an eleven year old, don't you?
I've never known such an accepting, compassionate, loving child and I don't want your hate-filled existence making her any less than she is.
I'm not confrontational but this is a nerve I wouldn't touch if I were you. Thankfully, you're a dying breed and I imagine this is the last generation that'll have to endure narrow-minded tools.
I think she's pretty great and she's prouder than ever to tell people her brother is gay. So enjoy spreading hate to nobody that gives a toss.
Flinders' status update received hundreds of likes in just a few hours, with dozens of comments, including, "Will you be my gay big brother?" And, simply, "Marry me."
One of the comments was from Flinders' mother, Debra Brown, who said:
"You have to feel a bit (and only a teeny weeny bit) sorry for kids like the 'odious toad' mentioned...because they weren't born homophobic; they are obviously being influenced by family members...I am so proud of you as my son and as a really lovely, hardworking, intelligent and extremely funny bloke. I am equally proud of my little Lola, who is the sweetest and sassiest girl I know."
BuzzFeed News spoke to Flinders about what prompted his Facebook post, about coming out to his younger sister and what happened when they went to gay pride.
BuzzFeed News: What led to your Facebook update?
JF: I was babysitting Lola last night and as she was going to sleep she started getting a bit teary and I said, "What's wrong?" And she said, "I don't want to tell you because you'll be upset." And I said, "I doubt it, Lola, it's not very easy to upset me." But she was right, it did upset me – because she was upset about it.
She said he was talking to somebody in her class about how she got on really well with me and this girl said, "Oh I've got a big brother, too. He's gay." And Lola said, "Oh, so is my brother!" And then a boy in their class overheard them talking and he told them both how "disgusting" it was.
How did Lola respond to the boy?
JF: She brushed it off and told him, "It's got nothing to do with you, just leave me alone." But shortly afterwards she said she was sobbing a bit in the class and asked to go to the bathroom. She's a bit delicate. That's why it upset me.
What did you say to Lola when she told you that?
JF: I responded in a way that made it seem a lot smaller than I actually thought it was because I didn't want her to know that I was sad for her. I said, "Not everybody gets an upbringing like we've had. We know it's not disgusting, because what does it matter? It's not a choice you can make. But some people's parents don't think in the same way as the rest of us."
It sounds as though you were trying to convey compassion for the boy...
JF: Yes, and I said to her, "Sometimes you have to pick your arguments because no matter how hard you try sometimes you can't force them to think in a bigger way, if they're quite narrow minded. As long as you know what you believe and what the truth is, sometimes it's worth being the bigger person, if you can."
How did Lola react to what you said?
JF: It was dead sweet, I nearly cried: She just nuzzled into me and carried on being teary. She was shaken by it. But this morning she was fine. I said to her I was going to put it on Facebook and I let her read it and she said she didn't know I was that mad about it. I explained to her I wasn't mad he said it, because it's not the first person to have said something like that, but I was upset that she was upset and that she didn't need to be because I'm a big boy.
What message did you want to convey with your Facebook post?
JF: When I started writing it, it was going to be a very different post, written from utter anger and just spewing of words, but as I wrote it, I started to think about what I was saying and I felt a bit sorry for this kid – he's not got a bloody chance, he's destined to be like the generation before him, which I'm sad about, but it's not his fault. You're not born homophobic. Lola was such a clean slate so when I told her I was gay it was no issue because it's not an issue until you're taught it's one.
Lola (left) at Manchester Pride and Joseph (right).
How did you come out to Lola?
JF: She asked me one day, when I had my first boyfriend. She just said, "Joe, can I ask you something?" And I said, "Yeah, sure, what's up?" She said, "Are you gay?" And I said, "Yeah." And then she went, "OK. Can I have a yoghurt?" And off to the fridge she went! She's fab, she didn't have any preconceptions – my mum has lots of gay friends – so it was just really lovely and easy. I love her to bits.
You mention in your post you went to Pride together – was that Manchester Pride?
Yes, a few weeks ago. I said to Lola there was a parade and she made me a rainbow wristband for it and then she said, "Can kids go?" and I said, "Yeah, it's a family thing, absolutely." Then she said, "You don't have to, if you think I'm going to embarrass you in front of your friends. But can I come with you?" And I said, "Yeah, totally!" and then we spent the day together.
What did Lola make of pride?
JF: She was very impressed that Gandalf [Sir Ian McKellen] was there! And then she was given a little bucket of whistles that she was throwing into the crowd – she was all over it!
You're ten years older than your sister – what has it been like, generally, being the big brother?
As she's been growing up I've been the only male figure in her life, so I've always felt a bit of positive pressure in that way. But it's made me be the best version of me.
And what has the response been like so far to your Facebook post?
JK: When I woke up this morning I had no idea it would have the impact it's had. I'm just really glad that even one person read it.
Debra Brown granted permission for BuzzFeed News to report on her daughter, Lola Brown, and to publish her photograph.