How many times have you heard someone utter the phase "that's so gay" and wanted to hit them over the head with the nearest heavy object? You're not alone.
Challenging homophobic (read: ignorant and stupid) language of classmates can have an enormous impact on homophobia in general - which means safer spaces, especially schools. This is extra true if done with groups of other people who support you. By challenging the way people talk, you are actively standing out against homophobia, and helping other students realise that homophobic language can be hurtful and insulting.
It’s important to remember that you won’t always get the response that you want. That’s pretty normal - if someone is throwing about ignorant language, they're likely to be defensive about it. Being persistent is a key factor here (and where having mates can also help). By calling others out on their homophobic language/attitudes the message is more likely to sink in.
After a bit of asking around, we found some ways that students in Australia use to challenge other students
One way to challenge homophobia is by placing the responsibility back on the person being homophobic. Being labelled as a “homophobe” (someone who is homophobic) isn’t a very nice title to have, and isn’t something many of us want to be seen as.
By following up someone else’s remarks or actions with phrases like “stop being such a homophobe” or “you’re being really homophobic” can make the person aware that their actions aren’t appropriate. With enough people on board, it’s possible to make the word “homophobe” a really undesired title to have, and place peer pressure on your classmates to stand out against homophobia.
If your teacher uses homophobic language or makes a homophobic remark, then it’s a more serious issue, and an abuse of their position of authority.
If you feel comfortable challenging them directly, you should do so in a polite but assertive way. If not, write down what they said, where and when. You can then make a complaint by talking to another teacher, your coordinator, someone in the student welfare team, or someone in the student leadership team, such as a School Captain or SRC member.
THAT’S SO GAY
The phrase “that’s so gay” is normally said without any thought about what it actually means. In reality, what a person is actually saying is “that’s so homosexual” – which doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense. Some people argue that they don’t mean it as an insult to gay people – but the fact is, using the word “gay” in the place of words like “crap” and “stupid” is saying that gay people are all those things.
There are so many responses to phrases like “that book is so gay”. You can point out the fact that “the book doesn’t actually have gay feelings for other books” or tell the person that they might actually want to “think before they speak, because gay isn’t a bad word”. You can even explain to them that when they use “gay” in place of words that mean “bad”, they sound ignorant and homophobic.
There are so many different approaches you can take – the main thing is to keep your cool, and to try and choose the best comeback for that situation. Sometimes you won’t convince the person to stop doing it, but don’t give up! Even if they don’t stop, other people around can see what you’re doing and will be getting the message too. You never know who is listening and what a positive difference it can make to them.
If all else fails, maybe that heavy object isn't such a bad idea?