Sunday, July 29, 2012

Almost All Gay Students Hear Homophobic Language in School and Why I Still Have Trouble with the "Q" Word

The reason I'm posting about this is because I do know that things have changed a lot since I was in school in the 70's and 80's. And, I also remember when I was in school there was a teacher who stopped someone in the middle of gay name-calling. I think I was like in the 3rd grade, and a few kids were bickering about something I don't recall. All I remember is one calling another "fag." And the teacher heard it, stepped in, and she "handled" it in a way I've always respected.

She didn't just tell the kid not to use the word. She went into an hour long explanation for the entire class, explaining why it was wrong to use words like "fag" or "queer." Maybe this is why I have such a hard time embracing the Q on the end of LGBT Q. To me that word has always represented something negative...or odd that doesn't quite fit in. And even though I know where they are going by wanting to force the Q on us, I'm still not fond of it. And if you call me a Queer and I'm not paying attention, you'd better start running.

But this article is interesting because it shows that homophobic language still does exist in schools. I do know that it is markedly different now that it was thirty years ago because I hear this from nephews and nieces all the time. In fact, they don't even seem to think gay is an issue.

But it sounds like the study is authentic:

The University of Cambridge research for Stonewall’s School Report 2012, launched at its Education for All conference, included a national survey of 1,614 young people.

This is interesting, too:

In schools where teaching staff never challenge homophobic remarks, the rate of homophobic bullying is far higher than in schools where such language is always challenged at 71 per cent compared to 43 per cent.

You can read more here. I honestly don't think it makes a difference that the study was done in the UK. And I do think that if a study like this were done in the US the results would be the same. Because now the language isn't as blunt and crude as it used to be. Many times when straight people call something "gay" in a derogatory way it's just as insulting. They might not mean to do it. But it stings just the same.


Shelagh said...

Teachers should also consider that what kids say around them is the thin end of the wedge. The things that kids will say out of their hearing are far more vicious.

My daughter has severe eczema and was bullied for the whole five years she was at secondary school. She was sometimes bullied in front of teachers, most of whom did nothing. For all that most schools have anti-bullying policies, they seem remarkably ineffectual at dealing with it.

Schools also seem to downplay the 'drip' effect of the little digs, they will tell the child to ignore it. What they don't seem to realise is the cumulative effect. How often is it acceptable to ignore little jibe? Once a day? Once a week? My daughter had to deal with dozens of 'little' taunts a day. The message she was getting as school was to ignore them, that they weren't important. She took this message to heart and didn't say anything at home, either. The first I knew was when I got her school report. The child that had been described in terms of lively, extrovert, chatty, always has something to say (ie, never stops talking!) at primary school was being described as shy, introverted, unwilling to participate and so on. I had to check the name on the front to make sure I was reading about my child.

I asked her about it and that was when it became apparent that the overt, extreme bullying we thought had been dealt with in the first 2 years at secondary school had changed into something more sly. A pin prick hurts for a second and then is done. Dozens, even hundreds, of pin pricks in a day are much harder to deal with.

I don't think that anti-bullying policies are worth the paper they're written on if schools aren't prepared to implement them. All teachers have to be committed to them and prepared to challenge bullying behaviour. Children are excellent manipulators and know what they can get away with around which teachers. Bullies won't stop bullying until they understand that no teacher will tolerate their behaviour.

Here endeth the rant! I'm going to step back from the keyboard and try and unclench my jaw ;)

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting. I remember things like this when I was in school and I thought things had changed. I guess not. But at least we are aware now and I think that makes a difference. Years ago no one even mentioned bullying. It was just accepted as part of life and we had to get through it...regardless of the scars it left behind.