We should be doing more to stop the spread of harmful LGBTQ+ comments (Opinion)

LGBTQ youth are more susceptible to mental health issues due to discrimination

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The first pride flag was made in 1978 by Gilbert Baker. He met Harvey Milk, who convinced him to make a symbol for the gay community.

Homophobia in our world is getting out of hand. If you’ve seen homophobic comments on the internet or have heard others saying degrading things about LGBTQ+ people, then you know what I’m talking about.

This problem is prevalent around the country. For example, a survey found that LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to report being verbally or physically attacked and twice as likely to be excluded by their peers. Another survey found that in 2019, 39% of the LGBTQ+ youth interviewed had considered suicide. Because LGBTQ+ people are more often the targets of bullying, they are more likely to fall victim to depression. 

Offensively joking about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not okay, so how did it become socially acceptable to say discriminatory things about the LGBTQ+ community in daily conversation?

Offensive language targeted at people with disabilities or who are of a different race or ethnicity than you is widely frowned upon, so why isn’t the same true about offensive jokes toward gay or trans individuals?

Like a disease, the abuse of the word “gay” has spread into schools, ours included. Lucas Wilinsky (‘23) says it is not uncommon to hear “my goodness, that was so gay” during things like fire drills or other inconveniences.

The members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club (GSA) unanimously agreed that they hear the word “gay” abused in the hallways and in class far too often. Wilinsky also reported that the term “tranny,” slang for transgender, is used in the same scenarios as “gay”. 

“A lot of people use the word to replace ‘stupid’, so they’ll say ‘that’s gay’,” said Alana Weyand (‘21). Weyand says she hears the word “gay” thrown around in conversation three to five times a day!

Using language like that alienates the LGBTQ+ community, making them feel cast out just for being themselves.

“You’re not weird if you’re gay; it’s a normal thing. It should be a normal thing, but [students] don’t make it like that,” Weyand said.  

“Hearing the term ‘gay’ being used wrong can be hurtful; it’s being made fun of for something you can’t control,” Wilinsky said.

When asked, most people would say that teasing someone for something out of their control is wrong. What, then, is keeping people from standing up, from doing something about the daily struggles LGBTQ+ people face?

“[My parents] wouldn’t acknowledge [my identity] at all,” Julia Zamora (‘23) said.

Why is there this stigma against the LGBTQ+ community that taints our minds and leads us to favor ignorance over integrity, and what can we do to end the stigma?

Every year, the GSA club participates in the Day of Silence, a national event that takes place this year on April 24. To bring awareness to the agonizing silence faced by victims of bullying, especially LGBTQ+ students, those participating in the Day of Silence remain completely silent for one day.

However, the majority of our student population largely ignores GSA’s attempt to make the school community a better place for LGBTQ+ students. This trend is seen throughout the school year.

“They did that thing in Mav20, where they had the class talk about [the word ‘gay’], but in my class [people] said that it was fine that people say that,” Weyand said. How, then, can we change people’s minds about the word “gay”?

Some students think publicizing the issue would help open the eyes of those ignorant to it.

“I feel like an assembly would be really good, like how they do it for the Spread the Word to End the Word,” said Weyand.

Could it be possible for our school to hold an event like this, to end the abuse of the word “gay?” Such an event would cause a ripple effect, spreading from individual to individual, such as the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign did. 

Many of you reading this right now may not be taking anything away from this article, ready to just go along with your daily lives, thinking, “Oh, this is someone else’s problem.” I strongly advise you to take action! If not you, then who?

As George Foreman, a professional boxer, said, “Heroes have a rough time because they stand up when they ought not to, they speak when they ought not to; they always have to go that extra mile.”

Are you going to let your fear of leaving your comfort zone make you a bystander to someone else’s suffering? No! 

Elie Wiesel, the author of the book Night once said, “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

I challenge you to take a stand in your community; whenever you hear “that’s so gay”, talk to the person who said it; help them understand why language like that is harmful.

Only then, whenever everyone strives to be better, will we find ourselves living in a liberated world, where the burdens we carry have no correspondence to our sexual orientation or gender identity, whether that be straight or gay; cis, transgender, or gender-neutral. Someday, with the efforts of everyone, we’ll live in a better world.