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The popular phrase a lot of us will have been taught when we were younger. Call me what you like, but you can never do any harm. When I was about 5 I believed it whole heartedly, now, as many of us know, its bullshit. Without making the lesbians reading this smirk, our tongue is the most powerful of tools. You can build someone up, or you can bring them crashing down.
I have a mammoth sized bee in my metaphorical bonnet about the use of homophobic language.
“Don’t be a gay boy”
“You’re such a puff”
People ‘Facebook raping’ friends, with status’ such as “I have something to tell you, I’m a massive lezza”
Hilarious, I can barely click ‘like’ because I’m laughing so hard.
In some cases it will be meant maliciously, however I think most, that I come across anyway, are just a result of ignorance. People don’t realise what they’re saying, there is no second thought that they maybe with someone who identifies LGBT or is struggling with their sexuality.
What does it even mean? “Don’t be gay” It’s something I would find hard to accomplish myself, but it does have a negative connotation. As if you’re doing something that’s bad, not cool or embarrassing and the way to let that person know is to tell them to stop being gay.
Homophobic language is all over schools, however hard you try to stop it, it’s the lingo that’s used. I probably even used it when I was younger, I can’t tell you for sure whether I did or not because I just can’t remember. I put so little thought into what I was saying, I didn’t even realise I was insulting myself! I think that’s probably the case today, young people don’t realise.
Now, if I hear anyone say something I do try my best to highlight it. But it’s hard, and there will have been times when I haven’t managed it. Especially with young people, I reckon you have about 30 seconds (well, maybe a little longer) to come up with something punchy and to the point about the phrase they’ve just used before they lose interest and move onto something else.
But what about if your boss was to say something? Your uncle at a family gathering? A friend?
Something I’ve been thinking about recently is some of the language I use. I’m quick to start shouting about the use of homophobic, sexist, racist language and how damaging it can be, but yet I’ll use phrases like “That’s mental” or “Crazy!”
Granted some of the time I’ll be using it in a positive light, but still, it has exactly the same weight as when I argue against homophobic language. Sometimes I’ll have no idea whether the person stood next to me, or someone overhearing me will have a mental illness and I’ll be oblivious to the damage I’ve done.
Maybe it’s political correctness gone mad, (there I go again) but I don’t think so.
We all know from our school days what it feels like to recite that popular phrase about sticks and stones, but just remember, sometimes what your tongue can deliver, can pack one hell of a punch in the stomach without you even realising.