“That’s so… unethical!” The use of derogatory terms has lasting effects on others

“That’s so… unethical!” The use of derogatory terms has lasting effects on others

“Dude, you’re so gay for prank calling Stacy last night.”

Sounds like a normal conversation that you could hear anywhere around campus, right?

Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Amongst the community of Michigan State University, the words faggot, gay and queer are used so commonly that people forget how harsh, demeaning and prejudiced those words actually are. Over the past few decades, as homosexuality has become more outwardly accepted, the rise of demeaning words have also become “normal.”

National Coming Out day was founded in 1988 and is celebrated every year on October 11. It is a day where the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LBGT) community celebrates “coming out” through rallies, parades and informational tables in public spaces. However, the harsh words often create a spiral of silence where many in the LBGT community are afraid to freely express their sexuality for fear of becoming a minority.

So what exactly does it mean when people say those words? Andrew Plouff, a junior studying engineering sciences, admitted to using the words gay, queer and fag as a part of his vocabulary.

“When I say those words, I am not trying to put down the homosexual community.  I don’t mind if you are a homosexual or not; I would never use the words to say that I think it’s stupid that a person is a gay, queer, or a fag,” he said”

According to an article in USA Today, high school and college are statistically the time where most people choose to “come out of the closet.”  However, teenagers and young adults are also the highest number of people who use these cruel words every day.

Arts and humanities junior Janelle Moulding explained her struggles with being bisexual here on campus. When the words fag, gay and queer are used to describe something, not someone, Moulding said they’re hateful and offensive.

“When it’s used to describe something stupid, I feel belittled and targeted. I think that it shows both a lack of sensitivity and intelligence,” Moulding said.

C.J. Pascoe, sociologist and author of Dude, You’re a Fag, studied the use of the word “fag” by teenage boys. Pascoe found that the insult is used to make fun of any young man (not just gay young men) who does something that is seen as not “masculine.”

Pascoe points out that if a man cares a lot about his clothes or cleanliness, or if he dances well, he might be called a “fag.” Young men do this name-calling to show that they are a part of the in-group and it’s a way of asserting power and solitary.

Plouff said, “I don’t mean to offend anyone when I say those words, it’s just a thing that could mean dumb or stupid.”

Alesia Montgomery, a sociology professor at MSU, explained the harmful effects that often come with these taunts.

“These insults can place young men and women at risk of suicide and violent behavior and could also push some students to drop out of school. The word ‘fag’ encourages people to see LGBT youth less than human,” Montgomery said.

Moulding said she still wishes she never had to stress about coming out to a new people for the fear that they may treat her differently.

Even though the words fag, gay and queer may not be used to directly offend someone, it is possible that someone nearby can be negatively affected.

“There are so many other words you could use, and calling something gay, above all other choices, just speaks length to your ignorance,” Moulding said.

The words are used so commonly that people may see them as “normal.” However, “normal” and “ethically right” are two different things. MSU is among many settings where people fail to realize the damage that comes from the depreciating words.

So the next time you are tempted to call your friend “gay” for prank calling Stacy last night, pull out your handy dandy pocket Webster’s Dictionary and find something better to say.

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