Straight Up

LGBT rights flag

Teenagers speak in vernacular, and this is not a bad thing. We as a group are only just beginning to form our own identities, and using slang words and our own lingo to express ourselves amongst our peers is a central aspect of our adolescence. However, our idioms and acronyms can often be discriminatory and this necessitates change.

Over the course of a school week, I tallied the number of times I heard the word ‘gay’ used in a derogative, and ultimately out of context manner. The number was sadly worse than I had anticipated with the word being used a total of ninety-two times. Using the word ‘gay’ in place of such words as bad, unsatisfactory and strange establishes a standard that to be gay is to be bad, unsatisfactory and strange. By using the word ‘gay’ in a negative manner, one is perpetuating homophobia, regardless of whether one actually holds homophobic views. This is an argument over political correctness. It is blatant bullying in its finest form, which needs to stop in schools.

Teenagers may argue that ‘gay’ is just a word they use to describe something. That they don’t believe gay people are immoral, second-rate or sinful. They’ll even drop in that they’re uncle’s gay, or perhaps their neighbour.  However, by using a marginalised group’s name as an everyday pejorative, one is ultimately an oppressor. Taking my school as an example, statistics would indicate that there are people who either privately or publically identify as gay. Being a teenager is hard enough, but being a gay teen in an environment, which propagates hate speech towards one’s sexuality is certainly harder. And, there are innumerable studies to prove this.

Such research has indicated that LGBT youth are two to three times likelier to commit suicide when compared to other youths, and approximately thirty percent of all youth suicides have been linked with sexual identity. On top of this, LGBT students are five times more likely to miss school due to the fact that they feel unsafe after being bullied for their sexual orientation.

This is a categorical problem, which I believe does not take that much effort to fix. I am the first to admit that “that’s so gay” rolls of the tongue easily. However, these three short syllables carry within them discrimination and hurt. In an age of ‘yolo’, ‘swag’ and ‘lol’, teenagers have proven themselves to be a creative bunch, and it is with this knowledge that I am sure, we as a group can come up with a word to replace how the word ‘gay’ is currently being used. Instead, of saying “this homework is so gay”, let us take a leaf out of Shakespeare’s book and form our own word. If we are in an environment, which does not victimise, we will become a more tolerant, accepting and liberal society.

And, finally I have vowed to myself that I will make a stand. Every time I hear or see unwarranted hate speech I will try to inform the speaker. I will try and educate as many people as I can and I urge others to do the same, for nobody learns through silence.

  • jess

    This is beautifully written, Lara! you tackled this issue with such poignancy and skill. Can’t wait for the next article :)

  • James C

    Rad article Lara. Agree with you on all of the points. Using the word “gay” in a bad way is such a bad thing that I see so often in video games. Keep it up!

  • Sarah

    I really identify with this being a gay student. Wonderful article and I really, really wish people would stop using words like “gay” and “faggot” insultingly. :(

  • damian

    Awesome article, with research to boot! Really well written and insightful.

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