by Mr Wainscotting
I read in Stuff this morning, in an article from The Dominion Post, that a teacher at a Kiwi school is “on a mission to ban the word “gay” from pupils’ everyday speech.”
All too often we hear the word gay bandied about in lieu of stupid or annoying. And it’s everywhere. Very rarely will I go a single day without hearing it. Some kids use it without truly realising the meaning of the word, but many are simply unaware of the impact it has on queer and questioning people — particularly youth.
The paper asked 3 students what they thought of the “ban.” One student said “It’s so accepted into our society, it’s just a fine word.” Except that it’s not. As I’ve previously stated on this blog, ubiquity ≠ correctness. Being so accepted by society is precisely what makes it so insidious.
Another student said, “It’s not good if someone is using it as an offensive word to someone … but if you’re just talking about if the teacher gives you extra homework, that shouldn’t be as bad.”
We wouldn’t stand for calling someone Maori for sealing your stuff, or calling someone Jew for conning you out of your money, and it’s the same for gay. It’s offensive, derogatory and uses people’s identity and being as a shorthand for boring or stupid.
But will a ban on the negative use of the word, do anything? The article briefly consults an academic on the matter:
However, Victoria University linguistics professor Laurie Bauer said he doubted a ban would have much effect. Despite common use of racist terms being eliminated, racism still existed.
Yes, racism still exists, and prohibiting students from using homophobic slurs won’t make homophobia go away. But it’s part of the process. We still have a long way to go with eliminating racism, and eliminating racist slurs is not an insignificant step.
As I note from the article, he banned the word in his classroom after talking to students about how the word can be hurtful. Banning a word on it’s own doesn’t do anything, but it’s apparent that he’s explaining why he’s banned it, which is effective — it makes the kids think about it.
“It does need to be explained that homophobic language is not OK … it’s kind of a last bastion of accepted prejudice.
“… It is offensive and it does hurt people’s feelings.”
After reading this, I turn, as I do, to Twitter, where I see Tau Henare (National Party MP) tweeting this:
i see in the #DomPost there is a story that using the word gay is derogatory & hurtful & you not to use it at WHS. what a gay story.
What a stupid fucking response — from a member of the New Zealand parliament, no less. I was hoping that it was just a case of Poe’s Law and he was just being a silly dick. I replied that it is “very derogatory and offensive and contributes to a pervasive homophobic culture in this country.” His response?
That’s right, “Bullshit.”
Constantly having the word gay used in the negative is fucking offensive. It makes gay people, especially questioning youth, feel like second class citizens, and being told that our being offended by it is “Bullshit” send a message to us that you think we’re less worthy of respect and that we are not allowed to be offended by anything the privileged arseholes say.
Words change, language evolves, this is true. And one day, it might come to mean stupid, but right now, it predominantly means homosexual. When you hear the word gay, the first thing that pops into your mind probably isn’t extra homework.
From now on, whenever I want to call something stupid or uncool or annoying, I’m going to say That’s so Tau Henare.