Looking out...

A regular feature that wraps up news items found elsewhere on the web about LGBTQ youth (and some additional randomness):


Lol-taire's picture

Heavens alive

That mormon thing is ridiculous. Poor girl.

I hate this sort of this because it's these sort of cases that late all the latent rascist/ misogynist types who say that 'political correctness' has gone mad because they secretly pine for the days of minstrel shows and legal marital rape, get taken seriously.

Girl was being bullied about her own faith and she responded really mildly, using a phrase that is dubiously offensive at the very best (my friends- gay and straight- say it all the time without fuss) and in common usage, and she is victimised by totally humourless, perspectiveless authorities, who are doing far more harm long term than good. Harrassment is one thing, but this is used to cover the school's previous failings by creating an absolute paper tiger instead of providing tangible and concrete support for all students being victimised- regardless of whether they're mormon or gay or anything else.

sugarmagnolia's picture

yeah, and now her parents

yeah, and now her parents are suing. oh, the poor thing. it is anti-gay, even if she did not have intend it that way. gay is not an appropriate alternative to stupid. the school may have over reacted, but a lawsuit is a bit much.

"freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

Lol-taire's picture

sure, but the school left a

sure, but the school left a permanent black mark on her record and considering she'd be making college applications and such like it's wrong that she's being stigmatised for a harmless remark made under unfair circumstances.

But you're right, people do bring stupid lawsuits but if this is an official policy of the school it needs to be reviewed and if her parents can't bring recourse through mediation with the school, I don't think a court case is that out of order. If a gay teen had been harrassed and was then penalised by the school when they responded, no-on here would bat an eyelid that their parents might go to the courts.

'That's so gay' and the like did originate as an anti-gay slur but it has been decontextualised. I can see how it could be used to create a threatening atmosphere for gay students, but most of the time there is no homophobic intent behind the use of that sort of phrase. Intention is what's important with the moderation of language in a public space.

Gay has become a synonym for undesirable or stupid, and it's too late to change that. It's not as if it's the first time its definition has changed. All you can do is make sure that gay as an insult is separated in people's minds from gay as an orientation. And in my peer group that separation is absolute, but I'm lucky. So actually, for me the use of the word gay as an insult isn't offensive (unless it's actually being used in a derrogatory sense against a gay person).

TeeAhr1's picture

All right, but...

I'm fully in support of the idea that "we don't put up with people saying gay, fag, queer, or any other homophobic slur, and you will be disciplined accordingly." I really think we need more consistent discipline for that. That sort of ignorance and gay-bashing have absolutely no place in school (or anywhere else for that matter, but schools can and should do something about it). And yes, it is homophobic, semantics and definition games be damned. We all know what "gay" means. I mean, you wouldn't get away with calling someone a nigger and then saying it "oh, but I didn't mean it like that," would you?

BUT! The girl's comment, "That's so gay," was made in response to her classmate's comment "Do you have 10 moms?" Obviously a jab at her religion. So why is this Mormon girl, who was obviously being harassed by a group of her classmates, any less deserving of that same protection?
TeeAhr1 (p. daniels) - Special Assistant To Mr. Wonka

Lol-taire's picture

True, but "you're such a

True, but "you're such a nigger" has only one possible meaning. Gay has taken on a third meaning in recent years, and that's no longer necessarily linked to homosexuality itself.
No-one would argue that gay bashing has a place in schools (you're not exactly going to schedule it in second period after lunch are you), but I really do believe there is a huge difference between someone actually using language in a homophobic conext and using gay to denote something mildy annoying/ stupid.
People have to learn to pick their battles. There are more important issues facing gay teenagers in many schools, than a language that belongs to their generation anyway.
Like any slang, once this generation of teenagers grow up 'that's so gay' will almost certainly have become an anachronism anyway. Censuring it only makes it more delicious, in a playground rebellion type way.

underdarkness's picture

There is NO other meaning

There is NO other meaning for Gay. Everybody knows what it means and it does not mean "stupid".

- One Nation, Under Darkness

Lol-taire's picture

It used to mean happy. It

It used to mean happy. It still does mean happy/ joyful. It also means homosexual, and now a new meaning has emerged and that meaning is rubbish.

No-one here would argue that if I say 'this debate is a travesty' that I am being transphobic. But etymologically I am.

Fag means cigarette, a gross meat dumpling type thing or is a pejoritive term for a gay man. The first and the last definition may even share an etymological root (although this is probably urban myth). Language can expand to encompass multiple definitions of words; a lot of language betrays the embarrassing predjudices and factual errors of the time from which the words passed into common use, whether it was ten years ago or 1000 years ago.

Offence is caused by the intent and not by the words themselves.
Whether this a geniunely offensive term used unknowingly (and ignorance is only an excuse once) or a formerly offensive term used innocently- which I believe 'gay' in this context has become.

If you get het up about a phrase used widely without homophobic intention, then when you encounter actual homophobia how can you expect it to be taken seriously?

Homophobia isn't a cardinal sin. It's nasty when it occurs because of a lack of sensitivity and intolerable when directed with deliberate maliciousness. But obviously most straight people (which equals most people) aren't thinking about it most of the time- and why should they?

Actions and opinions matter. But hypersensitivity infantalises everyone. People have to step away from a mindset of victimisation, because if they don't then what's left for real victims?

Campfire's picture

I've used the phrase "that's

I've used the phrase "that's so gay" myself on more than one occasion. In fact, my brother in law was asking me if what he was wearing looked really bad or not this morning, and I said to him, "If it was me carrying on like you, you'd tell me to stop being such a poof. So stop being such a poof!" Problem is, that's in our house to my brother in law who I know isn't homophobic. This girl on the other hand is part of a religion which publically denounces homosexuality, and actually until very recently simply encouraged gay mormons to get married in order to "cure" their homosexuality, and used the phrase in a classroom full of people, one or more of whom could easily have been offended. Now, whilst I do believe this girl when she says she didn't mean it in a homophobic fashion, that is unfortunately not an excuse.

Nevertheless I don't believe such a fuss is necessary. I've only been out of school for a year, surely the concept of a 30 minute detention hasn't been scrapped already? Or being kept back after class to discuss the inappropriateness of the comment? I thought that's what Liberals on the other side of the pond were famous for - discussion and dialogue! The fact that this has spiralled into a lawsuit is more unnecessary and inappropriate than the original statement ever was.

Lol-taire: I understand your point and it's a good one. However, the most prominent known definition of gay is a reference to homosexuality. Ask anyone on the street what the definition of "gay" is and I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would respond with either "stupid" or "happy". Fag is purely a British colloquialism and isn't used in the US or, afaik, any other country. Furthermore, translating (or rather, transforming) a word for homosexuality into a pejorative term to refer to stupid/crappy things is hardly on a par with 'faggot' both being a type of meatball, a pile of sticks and a nasty word for a gay person. They are unrelated. Gay does not mean "stupid". Honestly. Look it up. School children who have chosen to adopt this idea because they don't know what they are doing are not the people who decide the evolution of our language. 'Gay' is not used to mean stupid by any adult I've ever met, nor is it acceptable to be used in such a way in any workplace, business meeting or lecture. Therefore, the message needs to be driven home in schools - it's not acceptable to refer to ideas or people as gay in a pejorative way at school, at work or on television/radio.

Despite this, targeting a silly school girl is not going to do anything to further the cause of gay rights. The real people who need to be punished and have a black mark put on THEIR records are the Ann Coulters of this world, as they perpetuate the belief that common usage of words such as 'faggot' don't harm anyone, which in turn leads to the insanity of the situation that has occured here.

Words are extremely powerful things, and kids, even those who are 12 years old, need to learn the consequences of not only their actions but their words too. Otherwise, the same cycle of bullying that has been present in our school for decades is simply going to continue.

"If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon."
- George Aiken

Lol-taire's picture

"School children who have

"School children who have chosen to adopt this idea because they don't know what they are doing are not the people who decide the evolution of our language."

Exactly, for them the word has a new and multiple meaning. So it is by definition no longer offensive, unless it is specifically intended as an insult. In the same way that hysteria is no longer a mysogynistic word and travesty no longer conotes subverted gender roles.

Also school children are precisely the ones who decide the evolution of our language. Young people are constantly introducing new terms into the language. Adults (outside of journalists perhaps) almost never invent new words.

And in probably the next decade almost all the new words and the slang we use, like 'that's so gay' will become horribly embarrassing and the school children will want to say it less than they want to say groovy, hep cat or ripping good show, old boy. Like when my mum calls things trendy. They'll just shudder and laugh at us because we're old.

The only reason I'm so adament about this issue, it because if I'd realised what a stupid hypersensitive little victim I was being when I used to get upset about people calling things gay, then perhaps I'd have learnt to tell the difference between actual homophobia and a harmless bit of slang sooner, and I could have spared myself the heartache of assuming people would be hostile for so long.

People just need to get over themselves and realise just because for a while half their waking thoughts are about their sexuality, no-one else is thinking about your possible/ actual sexual orientation because they've got their own shit to consider. If someone had told me that when I was 14, I'd have made a fool out of myself much less often and been a bit happier.

Teiraa's picture

Excuse me...

Excuse me, but did they not just state in the first sentence that the group of people she was talking to had been bashing her religion while she made that statement? I happen to live in Utah, I used to be Mormon, I know Mormons, and let me tell you that most Mormons make that statement but definately not to offend homosexuals. Even my super religious uncles and aunts use the phrase "That's gay."

"It's either all ok, or none of it is."

and Lol-taire, well said. ^^
"You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?"