In the hallways at Avonworth, you’ve probably heard students saying “that’s gay” to insult someone or something. Or the inverse: a girl might say to another girl, “no homo”, before telling them they like her clothing or haircut. It is among one of the most common sayings at Avonworth and a phrase that’s shown up in tweets, meme’s and social networking the past few years. Conventional wisdom around Avonworth suggests most kids don’t actually mean to be insulting, but are just repeating a phrase they heard other kids say. But are these sayings truly mindless slang or are they intentionally hurtful from those who say them?
We completed a random sampling of students during lunch periods and study halls and asked if kids use this slang and if they deliberately the use references to homosexuality as an insult. As many students viewed this topic as controversial, we allowed them to respond without attributing their quotations to their names, so they could speak honestly.
A large majority responded with they “do not care” or “it does not affect me personally.” A group of sophomore boys said, “We say it all the time, but we’re not serious.” One particular boy said, “it is not offensive and, we are just playing around so why does it matter?” A senior boy also responded, “Stop being offended, people on either side of the issue. Nobody cares about your feelings; people are going to say what they want. Being offended is just inconvenient.”
However, there were some students who feel very differently about the subject. “I am offended by it because I am bisexual,” said one student. “They don’t understand, and they may find it more of a joke although it’s harming to others.”
When we interviewed teachers, they had a whole different perspective on this subject compared to students. Art teacher Kerri Villani says, “When people use the word gay as an insult it automatically gives it a negative connotation, being gay is not a negative thing.” Foods teacher Michelle George said, “It upsets me when I hear students use homophobic slurs because they are using remarks to mean something derogatory. I explain to students that their comments precipitate homophobic behavior and can potentially cause harm to others. I feel like I have a responsibility to put a stop to it.” Currently, there are no policies specifically prohibiting these remarks but Guidance Counselor Mrs. Levis concludes, “If it is continually happening, then repercussions need to be taken.”
Written by Mallory Manz, Havilah Gaugler, Maryana Stern, Alex Poskey and Josh Kujawinski