Celebrities, both LGBT-identified and not, have been rightly called out for using slurs or terms that perpetuate dangerous stereotypes about LGBT people. And while some have defended this usage, claiming that words such as “F*g” or “tra**y” do not spur hate and harm, a new study is proving otherwise.
Playgrounds and Prejudice is the latest study conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), to uncover the effect of slurs on youth. The study reveals that 45 percent of teachers and 49 percent of students in elementary schools hear the term ‘gay’ used in a negative way by other students, making it one of the most commonly heard examples of biased language. Additionally, 26 percent of students and teachers report hearing students use outright homophobic slurs. Name calling overall is rampant, with 75 percent of students saying that at their school, students are called names, made fun of, or bullied with regularity. It is hard to deny the likely outcome of such language use when gender non-conforming students are more than twice as likely as other students to indicate not wanting to go to school because they are afraid for their safety, and are called names and bullied more often as well (56 percent versus 33 percent).
Aiden Aizumi, a college student and transgender advocate who is involved with several projects to help support LGBT youth, shared his thoughts on using anti-LGBT slurs, saying, “Physically maybe those words don’t hurt, but emotionally and psychologically those words have the ability to cut real deep. As a college student, when I hear anti-LGBT slurs being used in school, it makes it very hard for me to want to be there. I think about the high school students I work with and how they have to deal with being called all these slurs as they walk through the halls at school, and how these words impact them. None of them are positive. We are not walking away feeling great, but little and less than everybody around us. So yes, my arm does not break when someone calls me an anti-LGBT slur, but nobody sees the scars that I carry on the inside from the words that have been thrown at me.”
As both Aiden and the study by GLSEN highlight, words do matter. Whether or not individuals believe the meaning of these words has changed, it is clear that many people, especially young people, are still experiencing their hurtful effects. GLAAD urges everyone to stand up for those affected by anti-LGBT slurs and show that biased language and hate speech will not be tolerated.