Monday, 9 April 2012

Why we need a culture shift in the playground.

I'm 18, and so am at the awkward stage of being an adult when others want me to be, and being a child when others want me to be. Walking around my school, I'm expected to set an example for younger students, and assist them with troubles. This inevitably results in me seeing the thirteen year olds with freshly straightened hair and lip gloss on, and remembering how much time, effort and money I wasted doing the same thing at their age, when I could have been enjoying myself. It also means I overhear the twelve year olds calling each other ‘gay’ as a pejorative and hoping they’ll soon regret it off their own accord, not because they were told off for it in class.

I remember hearing the word 'gay' for the first time when I was about 7, and as an insult. I then went on to call others 'gay' later that day knowing it was supposed to be a bad thing, but completely unaware as to what it meant. I then went on later that day to ask my dad what it meant and I struggled to see what was wrong with it. Sure, it was alien to me, but not wrong, let alone worthy of being an insult. I still hear it used as an insult on a daily basis around school, and this only strengthens my feeling that schools need to take a stand against use of words such as 'gay', 'spaz' and 'retard' by children who either are either unaware or unfazed by the deeper offensive nature of these petty insults. A 2008 BBC poll found that 83% of teachers hear the word 'gay' as an insult, more than any other word in the poll, and nearly 25% more than the second most heard word, 'bitch'.

Many argue that the word has changed meaning, hence the odious Chris Moyles using it as an insult and being backed by the BBC, and that it no longer carries the homophobic baggage we'd all expect it to, but when LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide this argument is irrelevant. It's anecdotal, but I'm sure I'm not alone in saying whilst I was at school, the most mocked and taunted people were those who were those who were perceived to be gay (whether they are or not was irrelevant) and the girl whose dad came out of the closet after splitting with her mother. As this is still the case, society simply needs to move on from insulting people for what they can't choose. If you called someone a racist term in the playgrounds I played in, you'd lose a lot of friends, sadly it's not the same for homophobic terms.

Perhaps the word 'gay' has changed meaning, and so can be used as an insult, but who's to say we can't turn this into a positive meaning? Perhaps we should take note from George Clooney and his reluctance to deny rumours of his homosexuality, as he 'doesn't want to make it seem like being gay is a bad thing.'

A x

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