Saturday, May 10, 2008

Open Forum: That's So Straight!?

Well all grew up hearing the famous phrase "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me". It probably didn't take long to realize that this line is the furthest thing from the truth.

"75.4% of students heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school, and nearly nine out of ten (89.2%) reported hearing "that's so gay" or "you're so gay" - meaning stupid or worthless- frequently or often." (GLSEN)

The National School Climate Survey found that LGBT students are more likely to by physically harassed, skip class, drop out, and have a lower GPA due to assault.

Words are hurtful and many times abuse begins verbally and eventually leads to physical violence. As Queer activists & Allies it is important to stand up, many times people utter these words without thinking twice about what their connotation is and whom they might be offending.

So I pose the question, what if anything do you do to combat hateful words? Do you say something, and if so how do you handle it and what has the outcome been?


Dreki said...

I actually haven't heard this at my school. At my old school, during anime club, this one girl actually stood up and forbade the use of "gay" in that sense. And she was the kind of girlw ho could do it, too.

Queers United said...

You are lucky RY I heard this constantly at school, everything was referred to as being so "gay". Today I try to correct friends, when they say something is gay I usually respond by saying "that's so straight" they look at me funny but they get the point.

I wish I had more confidence to tell strangers who use the term that it isn't right but I am always concerned how they will react which is part of the reason I created this post to see how others deal with it.

Hann said...

I tend to find not many of my friends use the term "gay" meaning "a bit rubbish", mostly because the people I consider friends are more accepting than that. However, I was playing MTG with a swarm of people, and I was sat between the two individuals in a hetrosexual relationship. I was very close to slapping the pair of them, the number of times they said things to do with the game were gay. It was really getting on my nerves. Next time I will say something (and I won't slap them). But then they'll ask if I'm gay, and I really can't be bothered explaining to the pair of them about asexuallity.

Queers United said...

Hannah I think many people are in a similar situation, not wanting to explain whether they themselves are gay or not. I think you can say something along the lines of "it offends me when you use those words" I have gay friends and family. If they press you further you can say I am not gay but an ally, or it is irrelevant.

Vanessa Leigh said...

I have not heard these comments in my company on hardly any occasion; I don't know if that is due to others being fully aware of my sexual orientation and therefore being respectful, or if it is more about the persons I hang with being pretty well informed. However, I do conduct trainings and ongoing education with others about issues related to having an LGBT identity, the struggles that many of us face, the needs that have to be addressed, etc. I have to say, even though I have been out for about fifteen years pretty openly, and am in my forties, I still might have a difficult time confronting derogatory language, for safety reasons and for reactionary reasons. But I may be underestimating myself- I speak up in general more than I ever have in my lesbian life!!!LOL!!!!! Vanessa

Unknown said...

I've said this in previous posts, but the use of "gay" to mean "stupid" is definitely on the rise in my experience, particularly in younger kids. It's pretty amazing to hear it, because you know when they're that young that it's either being learned from TV or their parents...

Anonymous said...

Wow! This posting is so timely.....actually just yesterday I had a chat with my stepfather about him saying people were "so gay!"

We were watching the Flyers game and he called a Penguin guy GAY...and rattled off some other things about him. I said, "Why would you refer to him as GAY, what does that have to do with anything?" He said "well it doesn't it's just a figure of speech ya know?" I said "Yeah I know what you mean and I think you should change your figure of speech because you are obviously referring to GAY as being something bad or derogatory."

He said "You know, you're absolutely right and I'll change my figure of specch and I won't use that word anymore."

A few minutes later a Penguin hockey player score and he said "You're such a p*ssy!" And he smiled and looked at me and said "See.....I didn't say it. I decided not to use that word anymore." lol

I said "good job, now let's see if you can keep it up."

Sooo I think it's very important to point these kinds of things out to people....CONSTANTLY. I know that I'll have to remind him again, I mean he's 52 years old and has been saying "that's gay" or calling people "gay" for sooo many years now that I can't just expect him to stop cold turkey. But I can promise you that I'll be on his behind whenever I see him.

The good news is that he loves me to death and thinks the world of me (yes even tho I'm a lesbian *gasp* lol) so if I talk to him honestly about something and how it's troubling, he will make an honest effort to change.

Keep up the good work Queers United (and thanks for the post!)

- Carey of and

Queers United said...

Thanks Carey that is really wonderful to hear. Most people aren't so receptive to criticism even though you aren't really being critical of them but their speech. My best friend says "that's gay" and then says oh gosh im sorry man. People don't mean to be vindictive. It is habitual, we just gotta break the habit. Sounds like you have begun that with your step-dad. Good for you!

Greg said...

hm. this is an interesting topic. I understand how using the term "gay" to mean something derogatory might be somehwat hurtful, yet I still use it quite a lot. Just like I use the term "pussy" and "bitch". I freely admit however that I am completely un-politically correct. I don't understand why it would be OK to call someone you deem un-worthy of respect a "bitch" or a "pussy" but not OK to call them "gay" or a "fag". In one case, you're being totally misogynist and in the other you're being homophobic. In the grand scheme of things I guess you would be a dick just for being so judgemental. The times where I kind of take issue with the use of terms like "gay" or "fag" are when they are overused like there is no other derogatory term for expressing disdain. I was at work once and this guy just kept on saying how this and that and everything was gay. he never sed any other term and I could let it slide once or twice, but after hearing it 5 times I had to tell him to widen his vocabulary because it started to sound like he was a repressed homo who was fixated on the gay-ness of the world around him. I say it all the time, just like I call some people pussies, some areas are ghetto and some fashion styles are so straight. What do you want to do? You can't really let yourself be offended by everything you hear around you. How else are you supposed to describe a fanny-pack (as my cousin, Nick Swardson, says)?

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