By Benjamin Mountain
“The tool most important to humanity’s survival … is respect,” Jess Winger says solemnly. “HA, GAYYYYY!”
Many of you might remember this short quote from Señor Chang in the popular TV series “Community.”
This video clip went viral in the midst of 2012-2013, and the clip itself is only 16 seconds, but it shows Ken Jeong’s character bashing someone using a homosexual term manipulated as a slur.
The audacity NBC has to air a program with this material and the fact they didn’t receive public repercussions are beyond me.
The popularity of this video happened to hit its million views mark around the same time Obama publicly endorsed same-sex marriage, a milestone for the LGTBQ community and supporters of homosexual marriage rights like myself.
It is fitting that he shouts this word in an attempt to degrade another character while he attempts to speak about respect.
When I first saw this video I thought it was hilarious! Who wouldn’t? It’s Leslie Chow shouting at someone so ironically it hurts.
Until college, this is the type of humor many would think is funny, especially in our homophobic-transitioning culture.
It is astounding how many times a day you can hear the word gay used derogatorily in conversation.
Being an RA in a freshman dorm, I expect to hear words like this for the first few weeks — maybe a month — before students catch on that it should not be accepted in Union’s culture.
What I never expected to hear was the use of these words by seniors, alumnus, captains, presidents of organizations or even my own friends.
It is disappointing to know that these people use that type of language and that our campus still subscribes to a cultural language that is highly prejudiced.
As a school that focuses on being incredibly progressive, the small things at Union are occasionally not addressed.
The use of homophobic words like gay, fag or dyke in a derogatory way persists in the U.S.
I am sure every reader of this paper knows one individual who still uses words like these.
Part of the reason for this could be the conservative nature of our generation, still holding onto informal slang of the past.
Another could be the hyper-masculine and -feminine nature of our Greek systems that we still see embodied in our student culture.
Regardless of the reasons, it can be hard to tell people that it is not okay, that it is disrespectful or even to ask students why they do it.
That’s why it comes down to the community as a whole to make things like this stop.
For anyone that is reading this and still thinks “gay” is another arbitrary word that is not harmful, think of this scenario:
Replace the word gay in your everyday language, with the word straight.
Imagine that this word, to which you may relate — something that is biological and innate, something you cannot change — is suddenly being used as a derogatory word.
How would that make you, or the person at whom it is being directed, feel? Obviously you can’t change this part of you, so why would you ever want to make fun of it?
Using this kind of language is homophobic, plain and simple.
Not only is it disrespectful to individuals who are attempting to stop this epidemic, it is disrespectful to anyone who is actually gay.
I have personally seen these kinds of words tear up individuals who are gay or lesbian, to the point where they have had to conceal their sexual identities.
Know that every word you say, positive or negative, has an impact on others. Know that you can make the difference in someone’s life if you choose to say the right thing.