The University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (ISMSS) launched a web initiative, NoHomophobes.com, to measure the instances of “casual homophobia” on Twitter. Dr. Kristopher Wells, the Associate Director of the ISMSS, hopes that this project will act as a “social mirror reflecting the pervasive and damaging issue of casual homophobia.” He stated that, “Words have the power to hurt, but they also have the power to heal. We want people to think before they speak and to always be mindful of the power of the language they use.”
Just on August 22, the word “faggot” was used over 45,000 times (2.5 million times overall). That same day, nearly 13,000 tweets mentioned the term “so gay.” “No Homo” has over 800,000 all-time mentions, and “dyke” has been used almost 350,000 times.
I’m not one to get particularly offended, especially because the term “dyke” is more of a term of endearment in my circle. But the fact that so many people are using these terms, even in an off-hand, potentially unserious way, is just reinforcing the idea that this language is ok for everyone to use. It’s exactly like people not wanting women to refer to each other as “sluts” or “bitches”, or why there’s an argument about “taking back the ‘N’ word.” When this language is repeatedly used, and without any protest, we’re contributing to the discrimination that typically leads to isolation and bullying in our youth. I’m sure most adults could handle if they were called one of these gay slurs, but think back to when you were a young, budding homo. Do you really think teenagers, who already have it bad enough, can withstand this outrageous amount of hate an discrimination being thrown at them everyday? A lot of them can’t. I don’t need to tell you why The It Gets Better Campaign exists. Regardless of how playful or funny you might find it, there’s some kid out there, soaking it all in, taking it to heart, beginning to think that it’s bad that they’re different. That they deserve to be bullied or punished in some way- because no one else is doing any thing about it. In fact, everyone is acting like this is socially acceptable. Would you openly, in person or on twitter call someone by a racial epithet? I should think not.