6 – Somebdy’s a poof

The answer to that was: yes, I am 🙂

It’s always intrigued me how bullies seem to have been taught at a young age to spot gay kids before they even know it themselves… Whatever training they get for that could probably be put to much better use; like, say, helping to identify young gay kids who might need extra support to deal with bullying pricks…

Anyway, this post was inspired by Stonewall’s findings that 99% of kids in school hear homophobic language, and almost a quarter of gay kids have tried to take their own life. As someone who used to volunteer for the Samaritans, I know first hand how damaging that can be and, if I’m being honest, I’ve experienced suicidal feelings myself, as a teenager.

The worst part of this story for me is that a quarter of young gay people, and a third in faith schools, reported that teachers don’t challenge homophobic language.

I’ve had this argument with people in the past – some folk talk about political correctness and the ‘PC’ brigade, but ultimately you don’t know who’s hearing your words, and what they’re going through. Every time a young gay person hears the word ‘gay’ used disparagingly, it crushes them, and makes them feel like it’s going to be ever harder to integrate and enjoy the same life as their peers. So if you hear it, please ask folk to stop it…

Here’s the link to the article: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/07/05/report-99-percent-of-gay-pupils-hear-homophobic-language-in-school/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Pinknews+%28Pink+News%29&utm_content=FaceBook

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8 comments
  1. mikemcl said:

    Well done Garry, there is to many people that can’t be honest or open due to ignorance. I think that it’s great you speak openly about your sexuality, my step daughter is gay too, and I would thump anyone you tried to give her grief but she would probably beat me to it 😉

  2. And quite right too 🙂 In some ways I wish I’d had the wherewithal when I was wee to stand up for myself more. But then, I try to live life by the motto “Regret nothing”. If I was different then, I’d be different now, and I like me now! Anyway, the idea’s to be as honest as possible with this blog…

  3. John Grieve said:

    The problem with bullies is that they seem to work off a list. If they didn’t get a response from calling you a poof then they would have moved on to your clothes or calling you fat or ugly anything to try to make you feel bad and themselves superior in some way.
    The ironic thing is a ‘friend’ on facebook recently became an ex-friend when he stated that he was against same sex couples parenting as it would lead to the child being bullied at school. WTF does he not realise that it is people like himself that are feeding the bullies. If more people were willing to accept that there is nothing wrong with it then the bullies wouldn’t have it on their list of taunts in the first place.

    • Aye, I agree with all that. Being against gay folk raising kids because of potential bullying is so contrary it’s not real, and the worst is, he’ll likely never realise that. That’s the thing – I don’t hold it against the kids who do the “bullying” so much as their parents and adults in general. Some of the bullying I got was from out and out pricks, but some of it was from folk I considered friends. It was just so constant and pervasive during school.

      I think it’s important to point this out too: homophobic comments can be made to anyone, and bullies can use a variety of things to bully people, including image, dress etc. But using homophobic comments against kids who grow up to be gay can cause major problems later on. If you’ve grown up thinking that it’s wrong to be gay, that it’s something to use as an insult, to wield as a weapon against people, then when puberty hits you can go through a real crisis. I tried very, very hard to not be gay, because I had never, ever in my life heard anything positive about it from anyone: not teachers, classmates, family, friends, media. To think that you’re “turning into” this thing that is hated and derided is impossible to describe, but it’s really, really damaging.

      So it’s not to say that homophobic bullying is in any way worse than other kinds of bullying, because it’s not. I’ve known people who were bullied so badly in school for different reasons that they ended up with eating disorders, or self harming. But I just wanted to describe what this particular brand of bullying can do.

  4. Glyn Evans said:

    Excellent, fella. That’s the most concise representation of bullying I’ve seen. As an insight into homophobic bullying it’s even more revealing – for what it tells me about myself, and what I was like growing up… And to some extent still am. It was so pervasive during our childhood that we, as adults, still use those insults in all manner of situations and almost always without thinking: how many times has someone been called “Gay!” by their mates because their slow in finishing their pint? Or have found yourself saying it yourself? As if sexuality is in anyway remotely connected to thirst. But still it happens, the words trip off your tongue even though you know you don’t believe them as you’re saying them.

    • I know what you mean chief – it becomes second nature. I don’t use ‘gay’ like that anymore, but I did a lot when I was younger, although me and a lot of folk I know do use things like ‘gay’ as insults in a slightly different way, that reclaimed kind of thing. I’m not sure that’s really a very liberated thing to do, but hey, we talk shit, you know? The thing about using words this way is it remains the same throughout your life – imagine you start a new job, and you’re trying to fit in. Someone calls someone else ‘gay’ for doing something stupid, and everyone laughs. Rightly or wrongly, you judge that group to be slightly homophobic, and decide you won’t fit in. That’s pure baws. If you’re anxious like me, that kind of thing echoes around in the brain for days, and can make things really uncomfortable. That’s not to say that the folk who said it actually ARE homophobic – more often than not that’s NOT the case; they’re just flinging words around without thinking. But the damage can be the same, you know?

      Anyway, cheers for the comment frater, good to see you online for a change! 😛

  5. Glyn Evans said:

    No worries, big yin. It’s the power of language. It’s so insidious it becomes – as you said – second nature. Reclamation of a word or words seems absolutely fine to me because you’re changing the IDEA & MEANING behind those words, but yeah you’re right, in the long run it’s never as liberating as it should be. Richard Pryor famously used ‘nigger’ in his act as a way of owning the word & transforming it into something powerful & liberating for black people, but then realised years later he’d made a mistake, and all he’d done was trap himself and others by using it at all, and that as a human being the only true act of power would’ve been to stop using it altogether. I suppose it’s a bit different with a word like ‘gay’ though, where it has now become THE word to describe folk who are homosexual, but in doing so does that still not separate people as DIFFERENT or OTHERS, ie: does the term “lesbian and gay community” imply a separateness?

    I think I’ve disappeared up my own erse with this one actually… This was meant to be a post about bullying – see what happens when I go online, chief!!

    Anyway, I think we agree: it’s the fact that as adults we still fling words – we learned in primary school – about, without thinking about the power of them or the damage they cause.

    To be dishcushed in detail later….

    • I meant to get back to this matey. I really dig this whole idea of the power of language – Richard Pryor’s example is a really famous one, but I think it’s true all over. Thing with the gay thing though is it’s not so much the word gay itself, which didn’t start as a pejorative, but other words like ‘poof’, ‘fag’, ‘homo’ etc. I know far more gay folk who use these terms than straight folk, and I think that’s okay. But it’s a fine line – if a successful comic uses them, does that give license for them to enter general vocabulary again?

      The thing about labelling is something that I find really interesting, and something I’ve posted a few comments about recently online. It may be worthy of a different post, but here’s a very quick recap of my feelings on it: people who are generally hidden in society need a label. It’s something to identify them, to rally around, to be recognised by. However, I think over time there should be a careful process of shaking off that label, and allowing people from that group to identify themselves in the way they want. If that doesn’t happen, we run the risk that the new label becomes an in-group, with another bunch of people hidden within it who don’t feel that it properly describes them. Then they find their own descriptor, use that to find strength and so on.

      Words do have power – if you don’t have a name, then in magical terms you don’t exist. This can be either a completely debilitating thing, or a massively empowering one, and for every hidden group of people, you’ll find individuals in both camps. As well, for every group that defines itself by a name, you’ll have reactionaries who disagree with it, and actively seek to usurp the power of that name. To come back to the point (!) ‘LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community’ is both a powerfully enabling term, and a limiting one. It all depends on who you are, and how you perceive yourself. Community is a great thing, but when conditions are applied in terms of how you fit in with that community, it can be destructive and isolating. What *is* the gay community? Is it the scene? A broader collective of ‘local’ groups and events? Is it everyone in an area who identifies as gay, whether they take part in these events or not?

      In the end, it’s all about what we think about ourselves. ‘Perfect’ communities should be perfectly free – if you wish to identify, then you can. If you don’t, that’s ok too. That’s not always the way it works out though…

      All of which is to say nothing of the act of using words without thinking, which is what started this conversation! 😛

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