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Sussex head teacher takes a stand against bullies who use ‘gay’ as derogatory insult

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  1. Too far, if you ask me. I call things gay all the time, and so do all my other LGBT friends. Everyone knows nothing is meant by it, and that it’s usage isn’t even really connected to the meaning of homosexual! I’d say it’s more of a homophone than homophobic. :p

    Just more heavy handed misunderstanding of language by outsiders, if you ask me.

    1. How do you imagine that “homophone” got cultural currency in the first place?

      They could have taken any word as synonymous with “crap” or “rubbish” – so which one did they go for?
      The one which was already associated with a minority group perceived by a hardcore of small minded bigots as “crap” and “rubbish”.
      To claim this is just coincidence is naive at best, bordering on disingenous.

      Supposing that the word “black” or “jewish” was used in the context of all things inferior, would you still be arguing the toss about how that gained cultural traction?

      1. Actually, “jewish” is used in that context – see my other post as to why I think that honestly, it’s usage as such may be a good thing – such terms are almost exclusively the realm of banter, and to call someone jewish for being cheap is really just a silly insult by its current value.

        Now – I don’t actually think it’s entirely a good thing, but putting my devil’s advocate hat on a second here – I do believe there’s some merit to making light of it. If we can all just make banter out of our differences, it devalues the use of slurs as tools of hate. I feel, that by and large, this is the British way – and it works!

        1. “Reclaiming the language” only works if everybody is on the same page.
          Check out the story on the waiter who got a note saying “Your fag choices made you loose out” and you tell me if that word has been successfully rehabilitated or not.
          By using that language you’re giving them a stick to beat you with. Bringing it into everyday usage isn’t the same thing as neutralising it.
          Some of us suffered those taunts with gangs of thugs surrounding us, and here’s a newsflash for you… they weren’t laughing with us.

          1. I never said our work was done – but I think reclaiming the language is one of the most important things we can do. In the context of the UK, we are indeed a lot further along than the US – apart from anything else, our cultures regarding such things are quite different.

            I read that story and was of course, appaled. What bothered me about this one is that it seemed to me to be a straight dude policing what language we could use – and I really don’t like that!

    2. It’s one thing for you to hear yourself say it, you know that you are not using it with the aim of offending someone. But when it comes to other people saying it or hearing it, you can’t make the same guarantees.

      Just as with your use of the word gay, some black people will use the N word when referring to each other. They of course do not aim to offend themselves and their friends, but it does not give license to the racists who do.

      1. And my problem here is more with language being policed in a uniform fashion, because you are right – it can be used in different contexts! I am arguing here, that if it is used more as the former than the latter, its value as hateful can be diminished.

        1. Nonsense. It is inappropriate to use the word Gay as an insult. If you perpetuate it you are a fool, ducky.

        2. Paul Essex/London 26 Oct 2013, 9:32pm

          I think you missed the part of the Head Teacher’s quote where he clarified this by saying:

          “We do not focus on particular terms or words in such policies – we make it clear all forms of language used in a negative or hurtful way are unacceptable.”

          This sounds to me like he is aware of the nuances of language and that you cannot approach everything in a uniform fashion. I don’t think it’s used as the latter as much as you say, kids start using it without even knowing what it means and it becomes the derogatory word of choice. It’s the same debate about non-black people using the N word. When you’re on the receiving end of discrimination then reclaiming the offensive language can defuse it. But every kid in school using the word gay to describe something they disapprove of isn’t liberating anything but enforcing a negative stereotype of a section of society they have little to nil proper understanding about.

    3. Well, it’s great that you live in an environment where nobody uses slurs with the intention of hurting other people, and where everybody understands that this is the case, but can’t you have a bit of empathy for those who aren’t so lucky? At the schools I went to, numerous homophobic slurs were thrown around on a daily basis. It’s easy to look back now and realise that the kids were just copying each other, and that they weren’t really obsessively homophobic, but how was I supposed to understand that as a child?

    4. Words have consequences. Every genocide in history started with words. A social climate where it’s totally acceptable to use certain slurs gives the green light for the next stage: bullying and physical attack. The use of “gay” in this context in schools reeks havoc on the mental health and self esteem of gay individuals. It’s a disgusting tradition that needs to be wiped off the face of the earth. How hard is it to think of another word to describe something *you don’t like*?

    5. Mallard, I detect in you a deliberate attempt to be antagonistic. I expect that you are the sort of rare gay man who neither truly respects himself or other gay (or lesbian) people. And I expect you are the sort of rare gay man who believes that all other gay men are selfish, vain, and egotistical. I also expect that in line with such a standpoint you do not acknowledge the value of the gay community and that you achieve for yourself some kind of perverted pleasure in trying to distress us.

      I am correct. And you know it.

  2. Robert in S. Kensington 26 Oct 2013, 3:57pm

    You and your friends should know better. You’re using the same argument that black people use when resorting to the ‘n’ word, that it’s ok because it’s their own using it. It’s not acceptable and people like you should lead by example.

    For example, people using ethnic slurs against a minority isn’t acceptable and just as obnoxious, totally unacceptable. People should expand their vocabularies instead of resorting to cheap shots to score points and put down someone because they disagree with them or don’t like them. To claim that it means nothing indicates just how much in denial you are. Words have consequences. Did you not read about that 11 year old in Vancouver who was going to shoot someone for calling someone gay? Yet you think it means nothing? You need a reality check.

    1. In my mind, to take such a stance of self-censorship is making a victim of yourself – and furthermore, i believe that if we are going to make the hateful use of these terms a thing of the past, we must water down their culutural currency with jovial usage!

      It’s the only pragmatic approach, if you ask me. As it stands, in this country anyway, the use of the word “gay” carries little homophobic weight, in part because I think its usage is so wide spread in a jokey context, and as such it is rendered useless by people who would actually use it for hate.

      I feel the same way about most slurs, really. If we make a mockery of their usage, we make a mockery of those who would use it for harm. Which is why I tend to refer to myself as a “fag” more often than I do gay – it’s me refusing to be victimized by such language, and showing that it’s actually rather rediculous.

      1. Referring to yourself as a fag just gives the green light for others to use the word. They see you using it so they think “Hey! If that guys okay with it, then it’s fine!” and then use it to inflict real harm on other people. Accept some responsibility and stop perpetuating the culture of shame and bullying. Pick another word.

      2. Robert in S. Kensington 26 Oct 2013, 8:06pm

        I find nothing humorous in making a joke out of a hurtful word targeting one’s sexual orientation. What next, deny there is homophobia? You’ll be saying that’s even a ‘jokey’ word, acting as an apologist for bigotry and homophobia. You must live in a bubble to believe that making light of words used in a hateful manner will eventually lead to their irrelevance or significance. Tell that to the relatives of gay boys and girls who’ve taken their lives as the recipients of bullying and on the receiving end of anti-gay epithets. Others so inclined go out and bash us or worse kill us because of who we are. You’re part of the problem.

        Maybe if you are violently attacked by someone calling you a ‘fag’ might make you see it differently, but I doubt it. You’d have to excuse the perpetrator by not reporting it to the police and in your own words refuse to be victimized by such a hateful word.

  3. The word ‘gay’ was chosen as it was acronym as Good As You. The reason why the term was used was because it was a better word than fags, puffs queers ect… Now we stand to see the word as an offensive, derogative word. But then again ‘Gay’ in the past was actually a name given to individuals used for both males and females but mostly females as Christian names. I wonder these days would any of our posters decide to call any of our offsprings ‘Gay’ today?

    1. “p”, the term gay, meaning “homosexual”, is not an acronym. It derives from the earliest recorded usage of the word, meaning  ”disposed to joy and mirth; manifesting or characterized by joyous mirth; light-hearted, exuberantly cheerful, sportive, merry”, found in the lyric of 1310:

      “Gracious, stout, and gay,
      gentle, jolly, so the jay”.   

      1. I know where the word originated and what the word means, I was merely explaining why the word was chosen in the context of modern language today :)

        1. The idea that ‘gay’ for homosexual[ity] is derived from an acronym is folk etymology.

    2. soapbubblequeen 27 Oct 2013, 3:25pm

      That’s true. I once worked with someone called Gaylina. Well done this head teacher. It’s a pity that more don’t follow his example, and put a stop to this kind of behaviour.

  4. He’s a bit late really. Other people have been tackling this for years now. Sir Ian Mckellan and Shaun Dellenty (87 in this years pink list and 77 in last years, http://www.inclusionforall.co.uk ) to name but two.

    1. No one is ever “a bit late” in supporting action against homophobic bullying. I suspect we will need strong people like this teacher to be vigilant until the end of time.

  5. Mr Grant should be congratulated on his stance. Hopefully more teaching staff will follow his example to stop the word ‘gay’ being used as a derogatory term.

    1. I have never had an issue confronting this. Working with five year olds – often were there seeds of this sort of thing begin- I always have and always will confront this. I never have to go into any deep philosophies or political debates (they’re five!) just making sure they know doing anything to make someone else feel less than they are is not something I will tolerate.

  6. “We do not focus on particular terms or words in such policies – we make it clear all forms of language used in a negative or hurtful way are unacceptable.”

    A common sense balanced approach to this sort of bullying if you ask me. It’s plainly obvious when ANY word is being used in a negative or hurtful way. Simple answer really.

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