Challenging homophobic language
Students from St Joseph’s in Clare want you to think twice about the language you use.
Written by Anna Carroll
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
Check out spunout.ie’s article on homophobia for more information
This year, my Young Social Innovators group chose to do a project on LGBTI+ rights because we were concerned about the widespread homophobia, biphobia and transphobia present in Irish society. For our project, we decided to focus on educating ourselves and others about homophobic language as it was the way in which homophobia was most commonly expressed amongst our friends and peers.
We wanted to make people reconsider their use of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language, to understand the effects of implying that the words “gay” and “disgusting” were interchangeable. Most of all, we wanted to combat the oppression that comes with hearing a term you use to describe yourself treated as repulsive every day, several times a day.
We decided to make a short film on the topic of discriminatory language which could be shared online to reach a large audience. We hoped this could help us to communicate our message clearly and prompt viewers to examine their use of discriminatory terms.
I spent two days with three of my classmates, Cian, Thor and Tomas, planning the format of the film. We wanted to feature our YSI group members explaining why discriminatory language was harmful.
Cian filmed the speakers all ten of them on an iPhone we borrowed from our Religion teacher, who was our YSI guide. He used a stack of folders on a rickety desk as a tripod. We actually filmed in our school’s meeting room, covering part of the wall with white paper to provide a plain background and stationing a couple of our friends outside the door to prevent anyone from entering.
Why saying ‘that’s so gay’ is wrong
Next to shoot were the scenes depicting the use of homophobic language. We considered the situations in which we most often heard words such as “queer” and “fag” being used as insults, for instance, as thoughtless comments on someone’s clothing choices or derogatory remarks about a new teacher.
The film was finished after two weeks of scripting, filming and editing. We uploaded it to YouTube and shared it on the project’s Facebook page, after showing it to teachers and several younger classes in our school.
At the beginning, we had hoped to help other people understand the effects of casual discrimination. By the time we had finished work, the biggest change I had noticed was in our own use of discriminatory language.
My classmates and I don’t use the word “gay” as an insult the way we used to. When it slips out thoughtlessly, we tend to correct ourselves and apologise. Amongst our year group, there’s much more discussion about LGBTI+ rights and about homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. People are more open to discussion about the persecution faced by LGBTI+ people in countries like Russia and Uganda, and we often talk about the challenges faced by LGBTI+ people in Ireland.
We can’t stamp out the use of discriminatory language worldwide- the issue is deep-rooted and will take a long time to resolve. However, we can strive to be more empathetic and caring citizens, to consider the effects of our own actions and to support the rights of others while remaining aware of our own privilege. If this can make even a small difference to the daily lives of LGBTI+ teens in our school community, I think that’s a start.
Check out spunout.ie’s article on homophobia for more information.