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Well no, I'm nothing *like* Justin Beiber, please stop accusing me of it
July 13, 2010 2:38 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop a group of young boys who I have a leadership role over from making homophobic comments, in a way that will make them ACTUALLY stop, not just when I'm around?

I am in a Scout and Guide Show, a musical/skit performance that is on every two years. This is my 5th year, and since I'm 25 (A Rover, not a leader... Still a youth role, technically), I've been there since I was 14 and I'm mostly reliable, I've been given the role of Patrol Leader. My job is to keep my patrol organized, to make sure they're safe and working as a team. I also need to set a good example for them, both as people and for show purposes... It's what Scouting's about, after all.

So, my patrol (Including me) are all male, and all 13-14, with the exception of one 11 year old. They've not hit puberty yet and still sure of themselves in the way young children are. While we were getting to know each other, one of them mentioned Justin Beiber, and all of them immediately cried out "GAAAAAY!". Followed by "He's SO gay." and "If you like his music, YOU'RE GAY and you like HIM!" Standard schoolyard fluff, right?

Except... It's kinda not. It's not OK for them to be equating gay with bad casually, even if that's not their thought process. Just like it's not OK to say that somethings totally Christian (And thus bad) or totally Black (And thus bad) or totally republican (And thus bad)... It's all judgment, whether they literally mean their pejorative or not. As Scouts, they shouldn't be using discriminatory language. As kids, likewise.

I want to convince them not to use gay as a pejorative term. It was trotted out several more times during the rehearsal and I've got no doubt it will be trotted out several times more. It doesn't offend me except in the abstract way that discrimination always offends me. But, Scouts is supposed to be a safe environment. As a (say) 16 year old boy coming to terms with being gay, hearing insults like this at a supposed safe place is NOT OK. I know firsthand the effects on the psyche that it has, and when I was 16 Scouts was the only place that didn't care.

There's a few ways I can think of to do this: Firstly, ask them what they mean... Do they literally think that having to do homework makes you like boys? Is there something wrong with liking boys? Does it make you a bad person, or less good then someone who likes girls?

Secondly, I can just tell them off. Although "Guys, knock it off, that's inappropriate language" is effective, it's unlikely to cause a change in behavior when I'm not around.

Thirdly, I can tell them I'm gay, and I find it offensive. I believe that combined with the first, this will be most effective, but I'm used to leading a team of geeks developing software, not a group of boys putting on a show. I want them to actually stop using the word because THEY think it's not appropriate, not because an external authority has a problem with it. Coming out to them isn't a problem... Scouts Australia specifically does NOT discriminate, and there's basically no-one over the age of 16 who doesn't know I'm gay in the show.

(I've already read the other homophobia threads... I have no control over these boys outside the Scouting context, and they're not a relative, and they're quite young, so I'm not sure the advice is applicable)
posted by Quadlex to Human Relations (69 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can remind them that when you're not around there are other people who may be gay or care about someone who is as their parent/sibling/friend/etc., so the best course is to just not use that inappropriate language. You might find it helpful to look at the site for the Thinkb4youspeak campaign. It's in the US but has examples of how people are getting the message across, including one PSA with young boys using the phrase similar to how you just described.
posted by PY at 3:00 AM on July 13, 2010


I'd recommend against telling them about your sexuality until you determine whether they're homophobic or just ignorant. It might just freak them out a little bit; I know I was mystified at my gym teacher in middle school.

When I was a high school senior, I had a typing class with some freshmen boys who acted similarly. The first few times, the teacher (a very mild-mannered, conservative Christian lady) said, "That's inappropriate language," and things to a similar effect. I honestly thought it was because she also thought that "gay" is "bad" and it was like calling someone something obscene (this was a crazy little religious school).

Then one day, she snapped. Someone called a classmate gay and she totally lost it on them. She stopped right in front of their desk and explained that she had a brother who was gay and killed for it. She described the murder in graphic detail and recounted how she was the one who found her brother's body. Then she talked about how it made her feel. She explained that using sexuality as an insult leads to the kind of bigotry and insensitivity that got her brother killed. She was really quite worked up about it because I think she'd just had enough, but perhaps you could think of a way before hand to address it.

The boys really looked horrified; pretty sure it was effective. My respect for her doubled on the spot; even though she really got personal with the kid Maybe you could try something similar about explaining the danger of hate crimes or insensitivity. Or maybe you have a personal story you'd find an opportunity to share. I also think that your idea of addressing it as a literal matter is a good way for them to get it if they're already fairly intelligent and astute.
posted by motsque at 3:11 AM on July 13, 2010 [31 favorites]


Thirdly, I can tell them I'm gay, and I find it offensive.

I like this answer.

I want them to actually stop using the word because THEY think it's not appropriate, not because an external authority has a problem with it.

It's enough that kids eat their spinach, expecting them to like it is another thing altogether. If you can get them to stop saying it around you, you've done a good job.
posted by three blind mice at 3:30 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't bring your own sexuality into it. For kids under eighteen or so, any implication that any teachers/mentors think about sex of any variety will immediately cause snickering and "ew." Even if the teacher isn't actually doing it: when I was in high school, word got out that one of my math teachers was waiting until marriage and I was like omg eww.

I knew a teacher who addressed the subject this way: "gay" means loving someone of the same sex, rather than the opposite sex. Love is a rare and strange thing, and we don't plan or choose who we fall in love with - it just happens, and sometimes it's with someone we'd never expect. And there's a lot of hate and cruelty in the world already, and not enough love: shouldn't we appreciate and encourage love when it does happen? What's the sense in tearing down someone, or an entire group of people, because of whom they love?

(Intolerant rebuttals you might want to have a ready-made answer to: "it's gross," "it's not natural," "my religion says it's wrong," "who am I hurting?" and the common "saying stuff is 'gay' doesn't mean I hate gay people, it just means something is lame.")
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:53 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm in favor of the "ask them what they mean" approach — gently encouraging them to think critically about their language use instead of just repeating what seems cool.

When I was in first grade, younger than they are, I complained to my mom that a kid in my class said he loved me (eeeeeewwww). My mom asked me what was so bad about that, and I didn't have a good answer. I scowled at her and told her she didn't understand, but it worked; it made me think a little bit.
posted by dreamyshade at 4:04 AM on July 13, 2010


Make it about the values of scouting. Guys, that's a really intolorant or bigotted thing to say, Scouts don't discriminate. I don't know what are up to date Australian slurs, but make it clear that this is equivelant, and that when they say "Omg, that's so gay" it sounds exactly as "friendly and considerate" and otherwise in accordance with Scout Laws on (respect of self and others) as calling somone an abo or wog would be.
posted by Iteki at 4:09 AM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Perhaps not appropriate for Scouts (not really sure what Scouts is, to be honest, so forgive me), but I'd take the approach familiar to 11-14 year old boys: confrontational, insulting and edgy in a naive just-learnt-what-an-orgy-is-and-gonna-use-it-in-every-sentence-for-a-couple-weeks sort of way.

As soon as someone says 'That's gay', say 'That's such a stupid fuckin' little kid thing to say' - remove swearing as appropriate, but the effects you're going for here are shock, firstly, and then a feeling of injustice, so they're thinking 'He can't just make generalisations about kids'. Bait them until one of them calls you on it, and then hit them with the comparison between what you said and what they said, and then ask what they'd think about you if you were gay: Would they think less of you? Why? Can they explain why? Would they say it around you if you WERE gay? Etc.

You don't actually need to say you are gay - your job here at the beginning is to be the new target the mocking etc. that might otherwise be going toward the hypothetical gay kid in the group. Later, when they've got the hang of the idea a bit (yeah, there's so many things wrong with this, but you know, it's a foreign idea to some kids - it definitely was to me: when I was 9 I was scandalised when I found out Elton John was gay and shocked that everyone already knew about it).

On reflection, perhaps do it completely out of context, so it doesn't seem like you just did it in anger.

Just promise you won't say 'gay people can't help who they like' because it implies it's a bad thing that they would help if they could.
posted by doublehappy at 4:25 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Copied a sentence and never pasted it...

...when they've got the hang of the idea a bit, maybe mention an old boyfriend or something and let them draw their own conclusions. They'll realise they've known and liked you as their camp leader (ahaha) and who you're attracted to etc. is irrelevant to that fact.

Of course, I still use the word 'gay' in the way you're describing. "Fuck, that movie was gay", etc. so don't be discouraged if they still use it - they might feel that knowing what it really means to use it gives them license to use it more.
posted by doublehappy at 4:31 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Consider carefully before telling a boyscout troup that you are gay. As I'm sure you've noticed, homophobia is not dead in this country, and parents may react badly. You can have your teaching moment without turning this into the kind of socio-political firestorm that could potentially remove you from a situation you find overall rewarding.

As a person who came out in college (oops, wrong door! ...sorry ladies... eventually concluded I'm not actually gay, but I've been secretary of the gay student union, broken my heart over girls, and been shunned over my stated preferences by people I loved...do you have ANY idea how embarassing it is to conclude you're not gay after all that?...sorry, off topic, but I think relevant) As a person who came out in college, homophobia is still alive & well in this country the say way racism is: In nasty, festering pockets. You never quite know when you're going to step in one.

If you can take the heat, tell them. But understand, this is information that will filter to people who will use it in ways you don't like.

I do find it very healthy to tell people that when they use the word gay that way, they are offending me. It's a concept that people can relate to more than a general "other people" or "gay people," and assuming these boys respect you, it carries more weight than "that's offensive."

And DO talk about why you feel it's offensive: Open a conversation.

Also, if it's age appropriate & your supervisors are willing to give it their blessing, talk about the differences between homophelia and pedophelia. It's an important distinction, and I think that American media & our culture in general is still grappling with what that distinction is. The result is that John Q public is still very confused on the subject.

I've found the concept of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' helpful, but I suspect that's a phrasing that should go by the wayside. But basically, a person is generally labeled "gay" and treated differently for having same sex activities , whether they think of themselves as gay or not. That includes people, like many pedophiles, who typically (or at least this was true when I was younger) do not consider themselves as gay, and whom most gay people would not consider to be gay. On the other hand though, people who term themselves as gay, even though they've never actually "done the deed," are also labeled "gay" by society and treated differently. So the question I like to bring up is, Is having sex with persons of the same gender what defines a person as gay or not? To me, the answer is a resounding NO, but I find it's a question that provokes a lot of thought as people say "yes" and I bring up examples of situations where there's a disconnect between action & gay identity.

Whatever you do, I do recommend speaking to people above you in the organization's hierarchy before taking the bull by the horns. As with anything with the potential to become controversial, it is best to get one's superior's blessing --and only fair to give them warning-- ahead of time. They are the people who will be expected to defend your actions to the public if someone should take issue with your discussions, and they are the people who can throw you to the wolves if they are so inclined.
posted by Ys at 4:32 AM on July 13, 2010


Yay gang shows! (do you call them that in Oz?)

I don't know how much leeway you get as a patrol leader to do actual activities with your patrol, but if you do, I think The Scout Association in the UK has some activities you can do with Scouts around sexuality and homophobia, but their online programme database is restricted to members and I'm not one anymore. You might also want to contact these guys and see if they've got any suggestions of ways you could tackle this in a scouty manner (they are very friendly people): http://www.flagscouts.org.uk/ (there might be similar groups in Australia, I don't know).
posted by Helga-woo at 4:41 AM on July 13, 2010


I think the most direct approach is to equate it with what they already know is bigoted -- racist comments, for example -- and explain that it's terribly wrong to disparage whole groups of people, and just because they're used to it and their friends do it doesn't make it right. There are people who are casually racist because they're used to it and their friends do it. That's wrong too.

I don't think you need to discuss your sexuality or even sexuality in general too much. It's kind of beside the point. I think the whole thing falls under "don't be a bigot".

The context is 13/14 year old boys. They're not nuanced thinkers and they're in a frenzy of hormones, so I'd say keep it concise, impersonal, repetitive, and stick to the principle.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:43 AM on July 13, 2010


Putting on smart Gay lady hat:
Do NOT reveal your sexual prefs to kids! It's not appropriate to introduce any idea of personal sexuality in this sitch and frankly, it's none of their business. Bad bad bad idea as it also leaves you unprotected. Have you heard about gay men involved with scouting coming out? Google it, please -- it never ends well. The sex talk thing works with one's own kids, period -- unless you are in a position that requires you to address it. You don't, so don't.

OK, now I put on my cool mommy hat:
My son and his friends used the word 'gay' as a pejorative. My son stopped when I explained that a good friend of the family is gay (and this was later underscored when I came out myself). He worked very hard after that to get his friends to stop, but wasn't very successful.

I like the idea of using Scouting ethos to underscore their discriminative language, with maybe some kind of scoring system: who ever uses the word 5 times has to do laps or take out the trash or some other minor but irritating task. Don't ask them what the word means -- intellectually they know. It'll just open you up to:

"So, what does it mean when you say something is 'gay'?"

"It means it TAKE IT IN THE ASS! Haw haw haw!"
"t means it SUCKS DICK!" High five!

That can't end well.
posted by kidelo at 4:49 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


You could explain to them what a Freudian slip is.

One element of Freudian slips is repeating something in the negative over and over, often said out of nowhere - ie. I don't like her, I don't like her, I don't like her. Chances are, according to Freud, that you do like her.

If these boys keeps saying, gay, gay, gay - chance are they (at least some of them) are gay. Seriously.

From that, you could say, since one of us might be gay, we should stop.
posted by Flood at 4:52 AM on July 13, 2010


Kidelo (and others in the thread who have the BSA as a model) - not all Scout Associations worldwide are the same...
posted by Helga-woo at 4:53 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I have explained to my younger brother many times about how disrespectful that term is, told him to STFU when he says it, introduced him to my gay friends, etc. Years later he still says it. It's depressing, and eventually I decided it isn't a battle worth fighting.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:09 AM on July 13, 2010


I was once 17 and stupid, and used it to mean bad or stupid even though I KNEW BETTER. What finally got me to knock it off was that a friend of mine said "You know, friend X is gay and he loves you, so please don't use gay in that context anymore." I never did. It really does just take a little embarrasment, unless they're total asshole kids.

I still hear it all the time at hockey games, especially to make fun of Montreal fans. Because apparently, most hockey fans are still 14 year old boys. It irritates me to no end and I can't tell 3,000 people in my immediate area to STFU.
posted by kpht at 5:18 AM on July 13, 2010


Thirdly, I can tell them I'm gay, and I find it offensive.
While I like this approach, I'm not sure what scouting in Australia's official position is on homosexuality. If you were in the US, coming out to your boys would result in your immediate dismissal from scouting. Period.

Are there any out sports heroes in Australia you could use to diffuse their attitudes?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2010


This might seem a bit weird, but one way to discourage continued use of gay meaning bad is to provide your group of young men with a variety of better, grosser, more creative insults. Things are going to need to be derided verbally, that's just the way it is when you're growing up and figuring things out, but who says that the insults have to be so formulaic?

Seriously though, when I was in middle school, our amazing English teacher armed us all with a bunch of really gouging and descriptive insults from various literary sources. She made sure that most of them were just gross or straightforward labeling of bad behavior, and not judgmental of lifestyles, and they caught on like wildfire. As someone who was accused regularly of being "gay" and a "dyke", the sudden switch to stuff that merely assumed I was something legitimately bad was a huge relief. I no longer felt the need to respond with "and so what if I am?" and could instead reject their insults as legitimately untrue. Gay? Maybe. But a mud-sucking worm with an Electra complex? No I am not!

I agree with people who are saying not to tell them flat out that you're gay, but only because sexuality of any sort from an adult authority figure is gross and a source for humor more than deep thoughts. But if you're asked outright, of course, don't lie. I'd suggest that you definitely explain why you find it offensive (but instead of framing it as offensive, because it's pleasing to young folks to offend people, imply that it's tedious, tiring, and plain ol' stupid), and keep a hard line about not using discriminatory language in front of you. Hopefully they'll get in the habit and keep it up when you're not around, or at least a mini-you will pop up in their minds whenever they say it and give them a jolt of guilt. That sort of thing can be quite powerful.
posted by Mizu at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2010


Just a bit more information before I address individual posts (I've read them all and there are lots of different, useful bits of advice... Damn you Metafilter, making all other fora look totally ga.... bad.)

I'm in Australia, where Scouts (No boy, co-ed) is specifically inclusive. I've asked the Chief Commissioner himself what the movements position was, and it is: Scouts is for everyone willing to follow the Law and Promise, including being kind, friendly ect.

Most of the cast who have been there for a previous show and have interacted with me at some point already know I'm gay. I'm not in the least bit closeted.

I have a Blue Card (Working with Children), I've always been somewhat good with kids, and every single leader and parent involved with the show is quite aware that I have a long term boyfriend.
posted by Quadlex at 5:54 AM on July 13, 2010


If these boys keeps saying, gay, gay, gay - chance are they (at least some of them) are gay. Seriously.

And then they would stop saying it because being gay is bad. Wait, that's a terrible idea.
posted by smackfu at 6:08 AM on July 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


You cannot control them. Nothing you do will "make" them do anything. All you can do is point out to them the choices they have and the consequences of making those choices. You do have some control over the consequences: you can punish them for using innappropriate language. But I think the main reason for the use of "gay" is that kids think they don't know anyone who actually IS gay. So coming out might make a difference.
posted by rikschell at 6:13 AM on July 13, 2010


Sorry, that's not exactly what you meant. But I still think that is some pretty terrible logic. "You are calling things gay because you are secretly gay."
posted by smackfu at 6:14 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are there any out sports heroes in Australia you could use to diffuse their attitudes?

Periodically, the blog Outsports posts shorts biographies of out athletes. Search for Australia, and you'll find a number of posts that mention gay Australian athletes.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:46 AM on July 13, 2010


do they care about rugby at all? gareth thomas -- the toughest badass on the pitch -- came out in december. maybe you could use this as a way to talk to them about homophobia and violence -- he's said some pretty awesome things about how hard being closeted was for him.

also -- love what motsque said.

and finally -- i don't understand everyone telling you to NOT tell the kids you're gay. NOT telling them is equivalent to LETTING THEM BELIEVE YOU'RE STRAIGHT! right?! isn't that what they're assuming? everyone KNOWS adults have a sexuality, even those adults who never mention it. assuming people are het is the default. NO THANKS!

kids are socialized to assume everyone's straight -- AND THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. this is a really fucking dangerous and powerful form of homophobia. i'm not going to police myself just so other people's kids can go on believing that everyone around them is straight. this silencing produces the violence that hurts, beats and murders me and my friends. i think it's fucking awesome that you would tell them you're gay!!

keeping quiet about it, or assuming it's "too much" or "inappropriate" or that they "wouldn't get it" just feeds into the notion that gay = bad. sing it, my friend!!
posted by crawfo at 6:47 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


But I still think that is some pretty terrible logic. "You are calling things gay because you are secretly gay."

Well, on an anecdotal level, the positive correlation between obsessive homophobic chest-beating and being a closet case is not that unpersuasive. Less anecdotal: check out Henry E. Adams, Lester W. Wright, Jr., and Bethany A. Lohr, “Is Homophobia Associated with Homosexual Arousal?” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 105 (1996): 440-445, in which the subjects who expressed the most hostility towards homosexuals also showed the highest level of sexual arousal when exposed to gay porn. (h/t Leiter Report.)

But I agree that if the aim is to get the kids to change their attitudes, then telling them about that correlation won't work. The tactic itself is neutral, but if it works, then it does so by appealing to their homophobia.
posted by Beardman at 6:51 AM on July 13, 2010


This kind of problem came up at my summer camp about 20 years ago. I finally blew up about it one night (uncharacteristic for me, so it must have made an impression). It had been on my mind, and one night we were hanging out and one particular counselor, who used to do a lot of limp-wristed, lispy-type mockery, started in on that routine. I said "I've had it" and delivered an in-person rant. It wasn't planned; it just boiled over.

I used an argument that referenced the stated values of the organization. As you say,

Scouts is supposed to be a safe environment.

...and that's the real crux of the issue, not whether you or anyone else is gay or within hearing distance. This isn't what the gig is about. My summer camp was a place that advertised its commitment to tolerance and diversity and building a positive self-concept and social confidence, etc. The gay jokes just flew in the face of that. I remember talking about how hypocritical it was that we told kids that they could be whoever they were, their most authentic selves, except that this kind of joke sent the really clear message but you better not be THAT. Then I think I made the 10% argument - something like "that means at least ten kids in this camp are likely to be gay." The major point was that it was inconsistent and very likely hurtful and harmful to younger people as well as to anyone among us who was right now feeling intimidated and shamed.

I don't know if this will work in your scenario - in my mind, it was important that we were all counselors and thus tasked with leadership and setting the social tone of camp. As peers, you are in a bit of a different situation. But presumably you all do buy into these shared values. Also, I am not gay and so I think I could speak in a way that didn't redound upon me - in other words, people didn't use it to say "Well of course SHE would think that, the big dyke" and thus dismiss my point out of hand. But I'm not sure how much that would matter. To me, the important part was using an authentic voice and speaking from a sense of fair play and good values. People can hear that.

Even if it doesn't go well, what will you wish you had done 10 years from now? I still remember this incident 20 years later. It made a difference.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on July 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


I would suggest a multi-pronged (hee hee! sorry) approach.

1. Invoke Scouting Ideals. Give 'em a look and tell them to knock of the unscoutspersonlike behavior.

2. Look for an opportunity within smaller groups to have a more nuanced discussion with a few of the kids who are influential enough among the others but uncommitted to the awesomeness of using GAY as a slur, only getting roped in via peer pressure. Peer pressure can work both ways.

3. Make the direct racism comparison.

4. Mock them gently for how nonsensical this insult is.
posted by desuetude at 6:55 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Scout Association in the UK has some activities you can do with Scouts around sexuality and homophobia

The comparison with Boy Scouting in the US is amazing, huh?

I also want to echo what others have said - don't talk about your own sexuality. It's not relevant to the values question, and is not appropriate. Even if the kids could handle this kind of talk, the secondhand version the parents would get at home might not turn out sounding so good. Leave yourself out of it. Stay on the postitive values of Scouting and maybe the juvenile-ness and fear that putting down something as "gay" reveals.

Is there someone in a superior position to you who can help? Presumably someone is in charge of this program and thus the atmosphere and boundaries of the program. If you don't have a safe environment as Scouting dictates, it would be that person's job to address the problem, too. And it might be a mroe successful initiative if it comes from more than one person in the organization.
posted by Miko at 6:58 AM on July 13, 2010


Don't make it about you. Be the adult role model. If they respect you, simply repeating "guys, that's not appropriate" when you hear it will be good enough. It might not work instantly, but it will get the message across.

Sarcasm and examples of gay people will not work. If they think gay is bad, an example of a gay person will eventually serve to reinforce it. It will be, to their tribal minds, someone on the list of people that have "gone against the normal" and sold them out. If they think gay is bad, finding out a hero is gay just makes that person not a hero anymore.

Not telling the kids you are gay is NOT homophobia or keeping yourself in a closet. It is simply inappropriate for a leader or role model to talk about their sexuality one way or another.
posted by gjc at 7:02 AM on July 13, 2010


Reflecting on the default homophobia at my elementary school, I'd say that it could be effective to tell a graphic hate crime story like motsque's, combined with mentioning the 10% statistic and the comparison to other forms of discrimination that they presumably don't practice. You might also mention the treatment of homosexuals by the Nazis.

At least in my experience (in a rural backwater), as a kid there was barely even a conception that flesh and blood gay people exist outside the schoolyard caricature. Instead, the family of gay insults was a closed circle: what's gay? Fags! What's faggy about x? It's for homos! If you can start making them realize that homophobia has had tragic consequences for people just like them, they might start to feel like they're participating in that legacy when they use the term pejoratively.
posted by Beardman at 7:13 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


desuetude: "Mock them gently for how nonsensical this insult is."

Exactly what I was coming here to say. I had to deal with that a lot while I was subbing this past year and made it about using the word incorrectly and how stupid that makes the person look. That might not match up with your goal of changing their thinking, but I'm of the opinion that it doesn't really matter why you don't do something you shouldn't be doing.
posted by theichibun at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2010


I would second the idea that you explain to them that not using slurs isn't just a matter of polite or impolite--that when it's ok to bash gays verbally, the world becomes more dangerous for them.

Gay people are still murdered, beaten, and discriminated against because of their orientation, and it's easier for those things to happen when everyone uses their orientation as a slur. Talk about some of those crimes that have happened in Australia, and talk about how people there are still fighting discrimination. More than likely they have never given any thought to what actually happens when gays are discriminated against. More than likely, they would not want to be connected to people who beat and kill and discriminate.

And connect it to Scouts, which values respect and freedom--ask them how they can be good Scouts if they think it's ok to contribute to a climate of discrimination and violence.
posted by emjaybee at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could make them watch the first seven and a half minutes of the second episode of Louie. It's a group dialogue (VERY foul language though) that ends up making a great point for not using gay slurs...though it does take 'em seven minutes to get around to it.

The episode's up on Hulu.


But realistically, give them some credit: "Guys, you're smarter than that. I know you know better adjectives. Those words are offensive and I know you know that. Come on. I trust you to use better judgment, even when I'm not around. Don't ruin that trust."
posted by carlh at 7:52 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of ways to explain things to them. Most people here have given good suggestions.

I am typing in just to say that it is not a good idea to discuss your own sexuality with them. Not because you are gay, but because you are an adult and they are not. It is not appropriate for an adult in you position to discuss his/her sex life with young teens and pre teens. Hetero or homo.

Your sexuality is open knowledge in the group, and the kids will eventually hear it or figure it out. Set great standards for them without discussing it, because it's not about who you are, it's about who they are.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:05 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Give them a better alternative slur if you want to take that one away. 2. Make it cost if they say a slur you don't allow. 3. Base your policy on facts not feelings. 4. Allow no exceptions on your watch. 5. Get over your idea you can or should control these boys outside your watch. 6. You do not matter, and if your policy is about you then stop immediately. Raising boys to be good men is why you are there. You're there for them, not the reverse. Sticks and stones.
posted by eccnineten at 8:14 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconding three blind mice.

I'd tell them that I'm gay and the way they mock gayness is insulting, in case they didn't realize it. Tell them making fun of gay people makes them look like immature jerks.

And if they don't cut it out, you'll kick their ass.
posted by General Tonic at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2010


It is not appropriate for an adult in you position to discuss his/her sex life with young teens and pre teens. Hetero or homo.

I'm sorry, but this is BS. Would you tell a straight adult that it's not appropriate to mention a spouse? Is it wrong for straight adults to wear wedding rings around children they supervise, or display photographs of heterosexual significant others? Sexual orientation isn't just about your sex life; it's about your life, period. Of course Quadlex shouldn't talk with the students about what he and his boyfriend do in bed. But telling them that he has a boyfriend is no more "discusing his sex life" than a straight person mentioning a spouse or partner would be, and it's offensive to suggest otherwise.

Someone pointed out upthread that children will, in the absence of specific statements to the contrary, assume that everyone they know is heterosexual. I believe that's harmful to them to shelter them from things that might shatter those assumptions. It does them a disservice in preparing them to live in a diverse world.

Quadlex, I'm not sure what the best way is to handle the specific situation you're in (though I find the suggestion to tell them that only little kids say junk like that pretty appealing). But I will say that if you've been avoiding the subject of your own sexual orientation for any external reason, I'd rethink it. You don't have any obligation to use your personal life as an object lesson if you don't want to, but you also don't have any obligation to keep your personal life a secret if you don't want to. I'd encourage you, if you're comfortable with it, to let these kids get to know you a little better.
posted by decathecting at 8:32 AM on July 13, 2010 [15 favorites]


While I agree with the spirit of what you say, decathecting, in that there is no shame in talking about your personal life in general, the context of holding a leadership position in a program around children does put some parameters on what discussions one should have with them. Anyone working with kids does have to be really appropriate in minimizing discussion of their personal life. That includes heterosexual people, very much so. Teachers, camp counselors, day care workers, etc., are best advised to keep their private lives private, because of the potential for misunderstandings as kids communicate with other adults, one another and with their parents.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2010


Miko, I'll ask again. Are you advocating that straight teachers and counselors avoid wearing wedding rings, answering simple questions about what they did over the weekend, or allowing children to see family photos? If not, what's the difference between that and telling students that last night, Qualex went to see a movie with his boyfriend?
posted by decathecting at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2010


> But realistically, give them some credit: "Guys, you're smarter than that. I know you know better adjectives. Those words are offensive and I know you know that. Come on. I trust you to use better judgment, even when I'm not around. Don't ruin that trust."

I personally think it's extremely unlikely that you can get them to "stop, not just when I'm around," but this approach is your best shot. Everything else suggested might make you feel better but is unlikely to do much good. Boys of that age are not greatly interested in your feelings or love life and are certainly not interested in the greater good (making life better for gay people around the world), but they do want to be thought of as mature and trustworthy.

Also, Miko is both experienced and wise. Listen to her.
posted by languagehat at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2010


"... holding a leadership position in a program around children does put some parameters on what discussions one should have with them."

@Miko- I understand where you are coming from, but if the program's structure does not specifically preclude the OP from mentioning or discussing his sexuality in this context, who is authorized to make the call as to what those parameters are?

As a parent, I would be more upset to learn that my child was not afforded a well-thought out chance to learn a valuable life lesson than I would to learn that someone was gay. To me that is the essence of what a scouting program SHOULD be teaching.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2010


I'm sorry, but this is BS. Would you tell a straight adult that it's not appropriate to mention a spouse? Is it wrong for straight adults to wear wedding rings around children they supervise, or display photographs of heterosexual significant others? Sexual orientation isn't just about your sex life; it's about your life, period.

I could hug decathecting for this.

Chances are, many of these kids have never--to their knowledge--encountered an out gay person. Some of them view gay people as a distant other. Some of them may be gay. Yes, openly discussing your sexuality will give them pause. It might freak them out a bit at first. Because it will represent a huge paradigm shift in their thinking. And you know what? Paradigms have to fucking shift sometime. Better help them to learn why this speech is inappropriate while they're still young and not going around beating up gay kids--or while they're not growing into suicidal gay teens themselves, isolated thanks to the lack of positive role models and the prevalence of hate speech around them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


decathecting, i love everything you wrote. it's what i was trying to articulate earlier, but was so upset at the "keep quiet" comments that i could barely get it out.

i also want to add -- it's disappointing to read all the comments that indicate the poster shouldn't "make it about him." making it sound like that would just be irrelevant, or too self-interested. the thing is, it ALREADY IS about him.

now, not all queers feel like this, but when someone calls something "gay" and i'm around, it stings me to the core of my being. i'm not "making it about me" by being upset. it IS about me, and is about using my sexuality as a way to degrade something, and that is something i am NOT ok with. standing up for myself is self-interested, sure, but only insofar as i refuse to be complicit with the homophobia that would have me keep quiet.

i can't imagine telling any of my black friends not to "make it about you" when someone uses the n-word around them.
posted by crawfo at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Are you advocating that straight teachers and counselors avoid wearing wedding rings, answering simple questions about what they did over the weekend, or allowing children to see family photos

No, nor am I advocating this for gay people. I've worked around kids all my life, in many different settings, and I'm not making it up when I say that you need to be careful about it when you are an employee or representative of an organization that looks after kids. I'm recommending that before the OP decides to bring up his own sexual orientation with kids, that he talk through the organization's policies on conduct with his supervisor. That's all. I'm not intending to raise an ideological debate about how things should be, nor do I disagree with the idea that kids do need to encounter more uncomplicated presentations of sexual orientation in daily life. But the OP is working in a context where there are very likely policy structures around discussions with minors about human relationships. I would offer the same caution to a straight person.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on July 13, 2010


if the program's structure does not specifically preclude the OP from mentioning or discussing his sexuality in this contex

We don't know whether it does.

who is authorized to make the call as to what those parameters are?

His supervisor.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2010


Please don't say you're gay if you're not. It's dishonest.

I would tell your scouts that using the wrong word to describe something is not only offensive and ignorant, but inarticulate (makes people think they're stupid). When they say "gay," don't they actually mean "inconvenient," "not to my taste," or "not as much fun as I expected."

Another solution... invite someone who's gay to help in some normal scout activity. Have him do something he's sort of an expert on (maybe give a historical tour of the city, help build something, or anything your scouts can look up to). Don't mention his sexuality the entire time he's there. Your scouts don't need to love him; they just need to view him as a "normal" adult. The next time "gay" comes out, tell them that your friend is gay.
posted by jander03 at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2010


But the OP is working in a context where there are very likely policy structures around discussions with minors about human relationships. I would offer the same caution to a straight person.

Miko, you are indeed wise and sage, but...seriously, you would warn a straight person to be very careful before casually referring to their spouse?
posted by desuetude at 10:20 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I say it is up to the OP to assess whether his coming out there will have negative consequences for him (freaked out parents) and if so whether it is worth it.

It does sound like a very effective strategy, otherwise.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2010


Miko, you are indeed wise and sage, but...seriously, you would warn a straight person to be very careful before casually referring to their spouse?

Just a data point: I'm straight, have worked with young people, and have actively avoided mentioning my boyfriend or spouse to the kids under my care. Not that I was ashamed, but that it seemed inappropriately intimate to go sharing a bunch of details of my personal life with them.

In activities with 13-year-olds, I can't imagine the conversational situation in which a mention of one's boy/girl-friend would inevitably come up. And engineering things so that it does come up feels kind of like an act of personal display that's weird and inappropriate in an adult supervisor of children. Think back to your own junior-high-school days, and how awkward and embarrassing it was even to meet your teachers in the grocery store, or to realize that they did country line dancing, or to have any other completely inoffensive brush with their personal lives. This will be a thousand times worse, not because you're gay, but because sex is very personal.

It's wrong of your kids to use this slur, and it would be wrong whether you were gay or not; surely you can address the behavior on its own merits, without making everything (as those above have said) About You.
posted by Bardolph at 11:12 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can you talk to the leaders of the show and see if this is something they can tackle with the whole cast, not just your patrol?
posted by Helga-woo at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2010


seriously, you would warn a straight person to be very careful before casually referring to their spouse?

Yes. I'm glad Bardolph arrived to back that idea up. Others who work with children might also be able to provide their own perspectives about how they've had to approach the issue of personal/private life thoughtfully with the kids in their care, and in some places there are even very clear policies and best practice statements that recommend against talking about your personal life. To me, the salient point here is that the OP is in a structured situation of that kind and, at the very least, needs to check on what his organization's approach to the question is.

I hope it's abundantly clear I'm not arguing to drive anyone into the closet and am 100% on the side of inclusivity. What I do want to note is that program settings where kids are present and being supervised by people not their parents, there are things employees and volunteers need to be smart about that are not necessarily true in other workplaces.
posted by Miko at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


be very careful before casually referring to their spouse?

Oh, and in addition, let's recognize that the proposed conversation here isn't really analogous to "casually referring to a spouse;" it's analogous to a focused and purposeful and serious conversation on the order of "Guys, I want to talk with you about a way you refer to women that's bothering me. I'm straight, and it really bothers me that you say that because I am straight; I'm attracted to women in a sexual and romantic way. I even have a wife."

Because it's a conversation that seeks to identify a specific behavior as negative and to change that behavior, I'm not sure the personal details are at all relevant. There may be some situations in which this conversation is fine - I'm just not 100% the OP is in such a situation and would recommend that he find out how that would be viewed in the context of where he's working.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2010


program settings where kids are present and being supervised by people not their parents, there are things employees and volunteers need to be smart about that are not necessarily true in other workplaces.

I'm not sure if the people advocating keeping mum on matters of sexual orientation read the whole post or the OP's clarifications upthread. The Scouts policy is specifically inclusive. His boss, colleagues, and all the kids' parents know he has a long term boyfriend. So job security is not an issue. The only good question about this is whether it's the most effective way to change the attitudes of the under-16s (which is the original question). Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but given that it doesn't carry a personal risk for Quadlex, that question of strategy is the only one relevant here. I can't think of any other arguments for keeping quiet in this situation that wouldn't trace back to homophobic double standards.
posted by Beardman at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


let's recognize that the proposed conversation here isn't really analogous to "casually referring to a spouse;" it's analogous to a focused and purposeful and serious conversation...

Actually, I wasn't proposing that at all. I was, in fact, proposing that Quadlex not feel as though he has to avoid casually referring to his boyfriend. Nothing more than that. In the same context that a straight person might refer to a spouse or significant other casually, a gay person ought to be able to refer to a spouse, partner, or significant other. I realize that some people in this thread have advocated in favor of a serious, sit-down heart-to-heart, but that wasn't what I was proposing. Though, given the heteronormative undertones in most societies, I wouldn't be surprised if a casual mention eventually led to a serious conversation eventually, because kids are curious and will likely want to know. But that's up to them to initiate.

All I was saying is that we ought to have the same expectations for the behavior of similarly situated gay and straight employees when creating rules and norms about their interactions with children they work with.
posted by decathecting at 12:36 PM on July 13, 2010


decathecting, that's exactly what I was envisioning, too. Not a Serious Conversation Including Mention of Spouse, but more of the normal, offhand sort of "we" that requires a lot of work-around to avoid.
posted by desuetude at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2010


The Scouts policy is specifically inclusive. His boss, colleagues, and all the kids' parents know he has a long term boyfriend. So job security is not an issue.

That's not really what I'm concerned about here. Instead, I'm thinking about all the structured programs in which I've worked with kids. All of them included some kind of statements/protocols for what kind of conversation with kids was inappropriate or appropriate. IN the US, this issue is stressed in handbooks and training because, as a nation, we're freaked out about the potential of even the appearance of inappropriate relations with children. So it's not that I think the OP would get in trouble for being gay. I am concerned that the OP might be - just might, I don't know - on thin ice with regard to what kinds of actions his employers will protect if something is misunderstood by a child or objected to by a parent. Again, these concerns exist no matter what individual is broaching the subject. All I'm saying is: definitely have the conversation, but find out how to have the conversation in a way that is appropriate, developmentally and interpersonally, and whether or not it makes sense to refer to your own life experiences, or to keep the focus on specific behaviors that are not welcome in Scouting, regardless of who's around.

decathecting, that's exactly what I was envisioning, too. Not a Serious Conversation Including Mention of Spouse, but more of the normal, offhand sort of "we" that requires a lot of work-around to avoid.

That's not something I would label as a problem, but it's also not the question being asked here. It is definitely something that all teachers/counselors who work with kids have to engage in with forethought, and in many cases, just don't.
posted by Miko at 1:20 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


>>decathecting, that's exactly what I was envisioning, too. Not a Serious Conversation Including Mention of Spouse, but more of the normal, offhand sort of "we" that requires a lot of work-around to avoid.

That's not something I would label as a problem, but it's also not the question being asked here.


What question does it not address? The OP asked if he should specifically come out. Several people have noted that regardless of whether or not he decides to do that, one option is to lead by example and not avoid casual details that would be inconsequential if spoken by straight person.
posted by desuetude at 1:52 PM on July 13, 2010


OK, I actually found something useful - this is what I'm talking about. One branch of Scouts Australia has their Personal Protection Policy and Procedures online. This is the document I think you might want to refer to, OP, before talking the issue over with the next person up the chain of command, or your peer leaders. The section "Protective Practices for Scouting Leaders - Take Care of Yourself" contains the kinds of protocols that it would be good to be aware of. The policy supports your stated goal very well - it's clear that what you are hearing from the kids is explicitly discouraged in Scouting, and that the Principles actually demand that you speak up to change these conditions. It also cautions about the ways your conversation can be potentially misperceived and how to be mindful about how to present yourself around kids.

This is all I'm talking about - the important idea that working with kids is a pretty regulated and policy-bound area of employment, and that even well-intended gestures, undertaken without sufficient forethought, can be tricky at best and grievously misinterpreted at worst. I've seen it happen to people, and that's why I recommend that the OP think through his approach and talk with whoever's in charge of him before proceeding.
posted by Miko at 1:54 PM on July 13, 2010


What question does it not address?

As I read it, the question is this:

"I want to convince them not to use gay as a pejorative term."

The question "What are some ways I can do that?" is implied. The OP offered 3 ways he could think of. The other commenters are offering additional ways or endorsing one of the 3 proposed ways.

one option is to lead by example and not avoid casual details that would be inconsequential if spoken by straight person

Sure, I guess that is an option. Though a laudable behavior choice, I personally don't think that is a great strategy when deployed purposefully to convince young adolescents not to use "gay" as a pejorative term, though. And the OP wasn't saying that just coming out would be his strategy: people know he's gay already, as you can see, so he probably is describing himself to peers and older adolescents in the same ways a straight person would, or people wouldn't know that.

So he was suggesting that he come out as gay not just to drop casual details like a straight person, but specifically to show them why someone might be personally impacted by the use of the language. He in fact says "I want them to actually stop using the word because THEY think it's not appropriate, not because an external authority has a problem with it." So just stating to others, directly or indirectly, that he is gay does not answer the problem posed in his question.
posted by Miko at 2:00 PM on July 13, 2010


I'm about to leave work so I haven't read any other responsses and I'm sorry if this has already been said.

Kids at that age are still really impressionable. Therefore, I see the simplest way to deal with this issue is to use a 2 prong approach where:
1. You tell them "That is inappropriate language." This makes it clear to them that such language should not be used in an open structured context like Scouts, school, sports teams, etc. You really can't controll what they will say in the treehouse in their free time but you can encourage them to use other phrases besides "that's gay" by:

2. Following up "That is inappropriate language" with "but I do agree that Justin Bieber is for the birds / whack / lame." Basically, introduce some new catch phrases and language to describe what they are trying to express. I doubt when they say Justin Bieber is gay that they see an image of Justin Bieber making out with another boy or something. What they are trying to say is that he's, like, totally uncool because he's like, such a dork and has goofy hair! Maybe a good follow-up ask.me would be to have people suggest alternates to "that's gay" that you can sneak into your language since I'm not feeling really creative or mentally flexible right now =).
posted by WeekendJen at 2:05 PM on July 13, 2010


For the record, I'm in the camp where I think your personal life should be mostly kept out of the situation. It's ok to have a picture of your SO on your desk and wear a ring, but I would avoid mentioning "I'm gay" or "I have a wife" or what you do in your personal time. Hell, even if single and a-sexual, do you really want a bunch of kids to know that Daily Grind Coffeehouse is your hangout spot on Fridays? Let the expression of your personal life be passive.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2010


i feel like i've seen this on askme enough times to mention it now -- "lame" is not an ok substitute for "gay." making fun of dis/ability instead of the homos isn't a good alternative!
posted by crawfo at 5:17 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the point that (some of) the "don't say anything" crowd is trying to make is that by mentioning a specific person in the "knock it off" talk, it diminishes the power of "don't use those words as insults".

It's the difference between saying "don't let me hear you say fuck" and "don't say fuck". As a role model and leader, your job isn't just to guide behavior, but to also guide thought processes. Giving examples of people (including yourself) who are hurt by the word just reinforces that it IS a hurtful word when used that way, and allows it to remain in their vocabulary for when they WANT to be hurtful. The idea should be to teach them appropriate ways to express themselves that doesn't stereotype people.

Or, it's not about who is gay or who isn't gay. It is about teaching them that those words are simply incorrect for how they are using them.

"standing up for myself is self-interested, sure, but only insofar as i refuse to be complicit with the homophobia that would have me keep quiet.

i can't imagine telling any of my black friends not to "make it about you" when someone uses the n-word around them."


I understand completely. Nobody wants to hear something that they are used in a bad way. But this situation isn't just two peers on the street. This is a leader who should strive to teach and educate, not react and defend.
posted by gjc at 7:13 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a misguided preteen, I used "gay" as a pejorative. I remember exactly how my friend got me to stop, because it is so odd to me that it worked, and worked really, really well at that. I guess at some point in To Kill a Mockingbird, which we read for class around that time, Scout uses some pejorative Atticus doesn't like (let's be real - it has to have been the n-word, right?) and Atticus tells her, "Scout, that's common."

My friend started doing that to me whenever I said it - just said, "little light-giver, I wish you wouldn't say that, it's common." I guess I felt a little ashamed to be saying it anyway, and just used it as an insult because of peer pressure, and the way she said "common" plus the To Kill a Mockingbird connection made me realize that the insults I used reflected more on me than they did on the thing I was insulting. I think that's what you've got to get across to these boys - not just that this could hurt people's feelings, because I'm sure some of them have been presented with that argument and said something along the lines of "Yeah, GAY people!!" - but that it makes them look drastically uncool.

By the time I got to college, "gay" as an insult felt about as acceptable as the n-word. I hear people use it now and it really makes me cringe, and I absolutely judge people based on it. If I had dated a guy who called things he disliked gay, I would have broken up with him because I would have been too embarrassed to bring him home to my family. I have a coworker who used it once and he went down many notches in my estimation, in the single second it took to say it. I feel like you have got to drive it home to these boys that people are silently making assumptions about what kind of people they are based on the vocabulary they use. When I hear someone using "gay" as an insult, I don't think, that person must be a truly red-blooded heterosexual. I think, wow, what a small-souled, narrow, pathetic little person. How common.
posted by little light-giver at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm currently leading a summer camp group of middle-school-aged girls, and this came up today for us, coincidentally. I dealt with it by saying, very directly and seriously, looking the comment-maker in her eyes, "Hey, negative and hurtful comments like that do NOT belong here. We show respect to each other by understanding that comments like this have the power to really hurt someone, and that's never ok in our group" basically.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:57 PM on July 13, 2010


I'm a Joey Scout leader, although I'm on a hiatus. I agree that this should be approached as a Scout Law issue- throwing around 'gay' as an insult, and for that matter insulting each other while they're at official scouting events, is not friendly, considerate, respectful or courageous.

(Why courageous? Because I will bet you anything that at least one of those boys, possibly several of them, is uncomfortable with the way they're talking to each other, but doesn't want to be different from the others.)

I was very lucky to have an extraordinary leader when I was a Scout. I still vividly remember some of the talks he had with us when he caught us treating each other like crap. He sat down with us, and we talked about it. He didn't condescend, or act like he was imparting wisdom. He just spoke honestly to us. He told us how he felt, and yes he did often include personal stories. I know that that always caught my attention, and made me feel more empathy.

And then if he caught us doing it again, we owed him ten push ups. Proper ones.

Just talk to them. Practice with a more experienced leader first, who can advise you about what is and isn't appropriate to discuss with them. But you've been with the organisation for over ten years, I'm sure you know where the boundaries are.

Speak to them honestly, and treat them as who they are- nice, intelligent boys who want to be good people. They wouldn't be there otherwise.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 1:20 AM on July 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I never meant "lame" to be conjuring up disabled people, I meant it to be used like the 3rd definition here . I guess I have some diconnect because while I would say "gay" is an adjective that applies to a homosexual (whole) person, I don't associate "lame" with a disabled (whole) person, because lame would only accurately describe a part that is not working, if that makes sense.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:51 AM on July 14, 2010


Then one day, she snapped. Someone called a classmate gay and she totally lost it on them. She stopped right in front of their desk and explained that she had a brother who was gay and killed for it. She described the murder in graphic detail and recounted how she was the one who found her brother's body. Then she talked about how it made her feel. She explained that using sexuality as an insult leads to the kind of bigotry and insensitivity that got her brother killed. She was really quite worked up about it because I think she'd just had enough, but perhaps you could think of a way before hand to address it.

Steal this story. Pass it off as your own. Don't worry, history will redeem you.
posted by hermitosis at 4:52 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


They did a bunch of psychological studies about how you tell children 'Not to do something'. The basic gist is, if you tell them not to do it because you will punish them, if you tell them not to do it because they won't get a reward, etc etc, then they'll still do it.
If you tell them not to do it, because it's wrong, no lure, no carrot, no stick, then they are less likely to do it.
This is because - if you give them a "reason" then you have just *externalised* the motivation for them not to do it. *You* are the reason for them not to do it, so if you aren't there, there is no reason for them not to do it.

However, if you just tell them it is wrong, then you are not providing an external reason, you are just reinforcing their internal motivations not to do it.

You can get a little more subtle with it obviously, but I'd just start with:

They say: 'gay' as an insult - You say: Guys, that's not cool. /it's childish/lame/etc
They continue etc... - You say: It's wrong to discriminate against someone because they're gay.
Don't explain further unless they object, in which case point out "Using gay as an insult, is discrimination."
Rinse, wash, repeat.
Etc, etc, etc...

See if you can enlist some of the other people there to join in on it, so they don't just think it's about you, if/when they do realise you are gay (which they should figure out eventually - yay for gay rolemodels!).
posted by Elysum at 8:18 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


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