Imagine the following scenario. Me: “Wow, that test was so hard. I hate our professor.” Friend: “Yeah, I know. That class is sooo straight.”
Confused? Imagine the same scenario, but with a slight change. Me: “Wow, that test was so hard. I hate our professor.” Friend: “Yeah, I know. That class is sooo gay.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
When I was in high school, I was involved in the peer leadership program. Each year, our biggest event was the Freshman Breakfast. As peer leaders, we performed various skits and led discussions about problems that face high school students.
In one of my favorite skits, a group of us acted out a sort of bizarro world in which everyone seemed to be gay and only a few people actually admitted to being straight. Girls held each others hands, guys asked each other to the prom, and we all threw around phrases like, “Ew, that’s so straight,” or “she is such a hetero.” The outsider heterosexual student confided in the audience, and she asked why everyone thought she was so weird for liking guys.
The freshmen, as well as most of the peer leaders, laughed at how strange the whole situation seemed. It seemed so unheard of that we would insult someone by calling them a “hetero,” or that we would refer to something that was stupid or un-cool as “straight.”
How come it doesn’t seem weird at all when we call a class we don’t like “gay” or an annoying hallmate a “homo?” In our society it is considered acceptable to use those words as insults or as substitutions for stupid, annoying, weird or lame. Most people don’t understand what the big deal is. Imagine, though, if you were gay and you had to hear people saying these things. Or if your best friend, your brother or your cousin was gay. How would you feel about hearing those insults then?
When I was in fifth grade I learned that my favorite uncle had AIDS. And that he was gay. At this time I was just beginning to learn about what gay meant and what AIDS was. Three months later, when my uncle died, I certainly understood what AIDS did. I also understood that one of the things being gay in our society meant was being treated with ignorance.
At that age, my classmates were first experimenting with “gay,” “homo” and “fag” as insults. Every time I heard those words used as insults it hurt so much. I thought of my uncle and how much I loved him and how much it would have hurt him to hear what my friends were saying.
Let’s be serious though. Should it take something as drastic as a first hand experience with a deadly disease to make us think about the effects of our behavior? Do we really need to imagine our mothers or our children as victims of our ignorance before we are incited to change?
Now back to my peer leader skit. Most of the freshmen thought that it seemed really stupid that we were calling things “straight” and “hetero.” They are right; it is ridiculous to talk like that. Why then do so few people realize that it is so absurd to use “gay,” “fag” and “homo” in the same way?
I am not surprised at all to find that in college the situation is still the same. I hear people talk like that all the time. If you are one of the people who use those types of words regularly, I challenge you to change. If you have acknowledged the words’ offensiveness and no longer use them, challenge others to stop.
Sometimes I feel like I am annoying friends when I point it out to them, but I guess I don’t mind being annoying for a little while if it means I can change the way someone thinks and talks. If you really take the time to think about it, calling an annoying teacher a “homo” or a really boring class “gay” makes no sense at all.
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I believe that here at Duke we’re too smart to say things that don’t make sense.
Lauren Fischetti is a Trinity sophomore.