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I work as a part-time reading tutor for little elementary school kids at a local community college. Anyway, to make a long story short I have these two regular 4th graders that come in for reading and comprehension help.


Well, somehow we got off topic and they started joking around with each other. One of them accidentally dropped all of his material on the floor and had to pick it up. The other one started laughing and pointing at him and said, "Man, you are so gay!" He said it really loud and in a very condescending way. The other one retorted with, "Don't call me gay you punk." He was seriously offended by it.


So I let that slide off my back because they are around ten and eleven years old.


But flashforward to the next 15 minutes. There is a very shy and quiet kid who walked into the laboratory, books in hand, and quietly took a seat and started reading. The next thing I knew these two kids start whispering and giggling amongst themselves about the boy. I mean they seriously called him every vile and homophobic name in the book! Grant it, I understood that some of them have no real home training because they are both pretty obnoxious...but when you get to know them they are nice students.

However, I had to say something...


Me: "Why are you two saying such mean things about him? He didn't do anything to you."


Kid number 1: "I don't like him. He's a little punk."


Me: "Do you know him? Have you talked to him before? what did he ever do to you?"


Both of them: ***Silence*** ***Shrug*** "I don't know...everybody say he gay. I don't like gay people."


Okay, so I try and keep from grinding my teeth down to the gums. I know they are just kids, but I am really upset at this point...


Me: "First of all how do you even know he is gay? Did he tell you that himself? And if he is why would you not like him because of that? He could be a really nice person."


Both of the kids: ***shrug*** "I don't know. Sometimes I think I hate gay people..."


Me: "Why?"


Both Kids in unison: "I don't know..."


Me: "What if I told you someone you liked alot was gay? How would you feel about them then? Would you hate them?"


kid one: "I don't know any gay people..."


Me: "More than likely you probably do...There are gay people everywhere, and they don't all look and act a certain way. What if I was gay? Would you hate me?"


Both of them: ***slight laugh***"But you're not gay. You are really cool Mr.____"


Me: "But what if I was? Or what if someone else that you liked a whole lot was gay? I happen to know for a fact that both of you know someone who is gay and you are really good friends with him."


Both kids remained in silence for a few minutes...


I basically told them that it wasn't right to hate people just because of something so superflous...And it seemed like they really thought about it...


However, when I went to my car I felt really depressed because I felt sorry for that one kid they were picking on. Growing up I WAS that kid.

And I just felt disturbed that these kids were more than likely only echoing what their ignorant parents had taught them.

All of what they were saying made me so angry...


How do you deal with ignorance especially when you are in a group of people who are homophobes? I deal with this practically all the time with people shooting their mouths off about gay this and gay that. Sometimes I am not even thinking about my sexuality, but incidents like this just pop in my face.

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Well handled. I know, it's a tough one. Even my little sister says it and she 10. She also says it in front of my father, my sister and our other brother, who is 20, and nobody corrects her. They all just look at me as if to say, "what do we do now?".


I truelly believe half of the problem begins with ignorant parents. They have obviously heard one of their parents use the word "gay" in a derogatory sense, or at the very least, their parents are like my dad and do not correct their children when they hear something they may possibly have learned at school. Also, i thinks shows like "Southpark", as much as i love it, don't do anything to help the gay cause! I mean, half the dialogue is Cartman saying, "you are so gay Kyle". For goodness sake The irony is that i actually think the writers of Southpark are gay and use the show as a medium to demonstrate how ridiculous homophobia is.


To answer your question, how do you handle it when you hear people say this? Well, kids are different to adults and you handled the kids part pretty well i think. Believe it or not, they may go off and think about it and at the very least, you made them think on the spot.


When it comes to adults, it's not as difficult because they can't go running back to mummy and daddy crying blue murder. I heard a girl saying it at Uni last year and i was doing some group work with her and had formed quite a close bond with her and her friend, so i was kind of taken aback when i heard her say it, but i think sometimes it becomes part of their language and they don't really mean it. Heck, i actually said it once myself before realising what i had said...


Anyhow, i let her do it once and when she did it the second time i said, "is it gay is it? How can it be gay?" and the other girl just looked at me because she knew the situation. It was quite funny, everybody kind of closed their mouths for a minute and then we resumed our meeting. But the girl that actually said it i think realised on the spot what she had said and was really embarrassed.


So, i think the best way to handle it is to iron it out as it occurs, and on an individual by individual basis. It should be illegal. Actually, all name calling should be illegal because when you think about it, it is such an inferior form of communcation.


If more politicians were gay, or 'out', i bet it would be illegal to use the word 'gay' as a slur. In my view, homophobia is on the rise again, along with the discrimination of many minority groups. Unfortunately, it is the way the current Govts. are controlling us, by keeping us fighting amongst ourselves, while they change laws and pass bills behind our backs. On the radio today i even heard that the Govt. in my country are trying to pass a law that removes the privacy of people diagnosed with contageous diseases, namely HIV. I can't believe the things they are doing.

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these two regular 4th graders

Talk about starting early. When I was a kid, we didn't even know what a gay man or lesbian was, far less using it as an insult mechanism. Late Junior High and High School was when we started our 'education'.


Its unfortunate that they are using such things, and I feel a deal of sadness for the kid that is getting picked on. These are also your kind of things that confuse kids, if he keeps getting called Gay when he hits puberty he probably won't know his front from his back end when it comes to sexuality OR he will become so defensive he'll be your all around masculine monster and be out using slurs and beating up the gay men himself. Real nice. If people only knew what they were creating with these sort of things. Suicide, Murders, and similar disasters in youth come about in similar fashion too, think by now people would realize and teach their children.


Both of them: ***Silence*** ***Shrug*** "I don't know...everybody say he gay. I don't like gay people."

Me: "More than likely you probably do...There are gay people everywhere, and they don't all look and act a certain way. What if I was gay? Would you hate me?"

Both of them: ***slight laugh***"But you're not gay. You are really cool Mr.____"


Race is an obvious type of thing but for some reason this gives me an eerie reminder of friends I have which make statements along the lines of, "I hate White people, but oh you, yes you're white but you're not like them." The way people insist on hating without knowledge and stereotype endlessly and cause others pain. I haven't been a direct target for homophobia (knowingly on the other person's behalf who is sputtering it), but have been for racism.


Where I grew up I was probably the only Anglo student in the whole class except the Biracial students but they didn't have the light complexion so it didn't matter. Never bothered anyone but I was harassed daily for years about not fitting in. Heh, I was the last one chose on the playground at times because "White people can't play basketball. Only we can. But we do need another player..." or, "White people are all rich, we hate you." or, "My dad said White people are all troublemakers, I'm not supposed to talk to you."


Now years later, with some people I still know or visit, I fit in as an individual but they'll still say things when we're out in a prodominately White area of town, "Damn, look at all these/that [insert White Slur Here]. They need to get rid of them they're causing us problems you know. If any of them come up you go talk to them, they'll listen to you, not us." Er, sorry but I think you happened to miss something. Then these same people I grew up with are so quick to claim the White population is the cause for every problem in the world. Same difference when a group of us (I was the only Anglo individual) were doing volunteer work and needed to talk to people on the street. They made me the white spokesperson, "Cause they won't talk to anyone who's brown or black. They all think we're trying to rob them or rip 'em off."


Off subject in a way but it just made me think of homophobia and racism. You have the stereotypes and the rude comments, people not thinking before they speak. They think if you fit into a category you must do this or that and look or speak a certain way. It just bothers me extremely. I'm white but I'm not rich, I'm white but I'm not prejudice and I don't discriminate instantly on color, I'm white but I'm not worked into a successful business scheme, married into a wealthy family, make the worlds best english professor, be part of the government or anything like that. I do the same things they do, I have an about average economical status for the area as they all do, I go to the same shops and spots. Yet, one grouping and one word makes me from another planet as far as most are concerned.


Same difference with the homophobia, except its not plain as skin pigment. Thus, to an extent I believe it is all that and then some because if you're white well people usually know, if you're gay man or lesbian unless you make it extremely clear cut one way or another they can't tell because it isn't obvious. Since it isn't obvious, they can also use slurs on an array instead of a certain group. It doesn't matter if you're male, female, black, white, brown, yellow, blue, purple (you get the general variety idea here despite those last couple were a bit overboard) - You can still be GLBT.


I presume the only thing you can truly do is what you have. Try talking sense to them about this, make it logical. They may not listen but hey, at least telling them about using the whole Gay slur thing on a kid who will most likely be straight upon puberty in years to come isn't right. The kid may be straight as can be and he is getting picked on because it is today's "In" for the choice tease. It may seem like innocent fun to them because they're taught to hate like that or they overhear their peers slinging it but they really need to realize the consequences of what this guy may end up going through, not only that but us. You had to hear it, and these sort of things catch like fire, another kid learns to use on someone he doesn't like just because kids are cruel, very cruel people.


Then like I mentioned early on those who are straight and subject to this terrorizing may become violent. Sort of along the logic line If you hurt or kill the * * * * * verbally or physically there is less tendency to think you are gay. Not good for us, nope. Not good for the kid either but thats another tale of life he'd drag himself into. I just see a real mess and all we can do is hope they learn how to use their knowledge properly. I'm not saying go find a gay man or lesbian and call them something but using it anywhere and everywhere is unacceptable and someone is getting hurt here that shouldn't be.

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This really upsets me! I mean, when are we going to learn that we live in a society that everyone is different. I applaud you Foxlocke with talking to those children rationally about how you felt! I've seen this alot during middle school & high school. Children picking on others because they're different, & not basically the whole gay & lesbian issue. You may have reached out to those children but I'm sure there are thousands of other 4th graders that are the same way & unfortuantely we can't reach out to all of them.


Being gay has taught me to love & accept people of all kinds & I think that's one good thing about being gay. I have friends of all kinds, black,white,bi-racial,chinese,the social type, the ones many would call a nerd ( Though I don't like the term nerd, I couldn't think of anything better to say.)


I was taught & raised to respect everyone!! A wise tale my great grandmother passed on to my mother. Manners & respect will take you places where money can't.Unfortunately no one has taught these children any better.


Being teased is the most hurtful thing anyone can go through & I've experienced that a couple of times from Elementary school all the way up to high school.It really effects how one feels about themselves.. that's why it's so good to take it into consideration about what you say to other people. I've let past comments take over how I looked & viewed myself but as I mature & get older, those comments that were said to me seems rather petty.


Hey Foxlocke, if you see the kid that was teased again. State some wise encouragement in him & let him know that nothing is wrong with him. Also be a friend to him! Hoped I helped...

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Kudos on handling the situation in probably the most rational, even-handed and certainly inspiring way possible, FoxLocke!


I can't believe fourth-graders talk like this at their age, that they know this vocabulary and these words and know how to direct them at other people in such a cruel, seemingly calculated way!! Granted, their use of the term gay as adjective is certainly taken from much of their surrounding culture (the media, the way they were raised, etc. etc.) but still....yikes...


And the funny thing is, I still deal with this kind of ignorance on a semi-regular basis -- and perhaps the more troubling thing is that it comes from people on or around my own age; people considered to be mature adults but who clearly aren't in certain aspects. Just the other week I was at a party with a friend and this other guy there was talking about how so-and-so was so gay because he never went out and did anything, or some joke he heard was so gay. So gay, so gay, so gay, so gay -- ARRRGHHHHH!!! And it's not just him throwing around that term to describe nearly everything weird and foreign, it's so many others as well! Of course, I never told this person he was in the company of a gay guy (and boy, would I have liked to have seen his face if I did!) because I knew the exact answer I would get, which is the answer you hear all the time: "Well, I'm sorry man. If I'd have known, I wouldn't have said it." As if it's okay to use such ignorant terminology when no one fitting that description is around; as if that makes it more permissible because there are no homosexuals in the room.


If a tree falls down in the woods and there's no one to hear it -- it still makes a sound. The same thing goes for ignorance: if you say ignorant, homophobic remarks and there are no homosexuals around to hear them, you're still an ignorant homophobe.


It frustrates me too -- but I'm really perplexed as to how to handle the situation. Since it seems like these kinds of people are really juvenile in mind and behavior, maybe the best approach is to sit down and talk to them the same way you did those fourth-graders. But then a lot of these people aren't even worth the time of day; not worth the energy and effort and civility it takes to try and have an honest, meaningful dialogue about how offensive this kind of talk and behavior is.

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I have to add to the kudos, FoxLocke. You did a wonderful job of handling that situation.


I have a friend in NYC whom I speak with on the phone on a regular basis, and sometimes, he will use the term "gay" inappropriately. When I point it out to him, he says "Oh we (meaning he and his male friends) say that all the time. We don't mean anything by it." That may be true to an extent, but I have noticed they seem to be homophobic as well. I told my friend to please not use that terminology around me and he has complied.


The main problem is that a perfectly innocent word, gay, has come to be associated with being homosexual. Why did we need another word for it? Isn't one enough?

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Foxlocke, you handled that situation amazingly well, much better than I would have. You should be proud of yourself, hopefully you at least planted a seed of thought in those kids heads which may someday blossom.


If it comforts you at all, these attitudes ARE changing and will quickly become obsolete, and we will live to see most of it.

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