The word ‘gay’ or ‘faggot’ is still commonly used to describe something or someone that is undesired or unacceptable. Despite the expanding understanding and acceptance of people that do not fit neatly into traditional gender stereotypes, being anything other than a heterosexual feminine female or masculine male is considered abnormal or weird. The perpetuation of this idea exists in casual everyday conversation, as in when the school work someone has to do is ‘gay’ because it means they can’t go out tonight.
The website “nohomophobes.com’ reflects back to us the extent that homophobic language is present in everyday language. This website scans the social media website Twitter and keeps track of how often people mention the terms “faggot”, “so gay”, and “dyke”, in their posts. For example, in one week alone, the term “faggot” was mentioned a massive 310,039 times, and the term “so gay” was used 70,854 times. The surprising amount that people choose to use homophobic language is especially disturbing if you imagine someone saying something overtly sexist or racist in a similar fashion. It is just wrong to continue to associate the word ‘gay’ with something that is lousy or unwanted when other forms of discrimination are viewed as unacceptable.
The use of homophobic language contributes to the rejection and bullying of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) youth and has undoubtedly had detrimental effects on the mental health of anyone impacted by such offensive language and ideology. Calling someone a faggot implies that they have deviated too far from the social norm and usually has derogatory connotations. This type of language is often used by people it does not directly effect because it seems inconsequential, but it isn’t funny to those who are viewed as ‘different’ or ‘strange’ because of it. The term “gay” means something that is cheerful or joyful, and this is the only meaning it should have.
Hopefully, by changing what is acceptable in our language we can help create change in commonly accepted thoughts and behaviours as well. Many people give little thought to someone’s sexual orientation or gender expression, however, homophobia (a negative attitude towards homosexuality) still exists both subtly and overtly. Until prejudices that result from judging someone’s abilities or worth based on their sexual orientation or gender identity no longer exist, there will still be a need to spark change in what is considered normal or acceptable.
Please stand up to homophobic language and help alter what is ‘acceptable’. This language can be seriously harmful to the self-compassion and self-image of those affected and needs to stop. If you are someone who needs help with issues surrounding homophobic bullying, anxiety, or depression, please contact the Wellness Centre on the ground floor of the Wallace McCain Student Centre, or visit mta.ca/share. Don’t let offensive and disrespectful terminology continue to be a part of colloquial language.