Homophobic Bullying with Words

1 January 2017

Homophobic responses were the highest. While some teens use words like “gay” loosely to describe things today, the casual use of homophobic words can have devastating effects on gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers. While trying to deal with the everyday challenges of being a teenager, gay,lesbian,transgender and bisexual teens are additionally subjected to various forms of harassment,threats, as well as violence daily. Anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “queer”, “faggot” and “sissy” are just a few of the terms these teens here on average about 26 times a day or about once every 14 minutes. Bart,M. 1998) Homophobic bullying can have detrimental effects on a teenager’s mental health as well as their social developments. The use of verbal pejoratives directed at gay,lesbian, bisexual youths runs rampant in many parts of the world. Local and national media only broadcast the most severe cases where a teenager has either been murdered for his/her sexuality or the bullied victim has committed suicide or killed other students. Verbal abuse is more often ignored by schools until such tragedies occur forcing them to address the issue.

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The article I chose to review was titled “ Naming the “outsider within”: homophobic pejoratives and the verbal abuse of lesbian,gay and bisexual high school pupils” written by Dr Crispin Thurlow of The University of Washington. The article can be located in the Journal of Adolescence 2001, volume 24, pp. 25-28. The primary focus of this study was to establish the prevalence of homophobic words used by the students themselves as well as the level of intensity and quality they attached to ach words meaning. The study surveyed all students gay, straight, and bisexual. The results show how the lives of gay teens can be “destructively constructed for them” by the use of verbal slang whether the words heard aloud are directed at the gay teen or someone who is not gay. Dr Thurlow conducted this field study research experiment by going to the high schools and addressed the students in their own environment rather than having them come to him placing them outside of their natural surroundings.

This would allow them to feel more comfortable with themselves and their responses. The method of research Dr Thurlow used was the Survey method. This method provides a large amount of information on large numbers of people. (Wade,C. , Tarvis,C. 2012) A total of 377 students from 5 co-educational high schools were surveyed in two major Welsh and English Cities. They were all Ninth Grade students ranging from 14-15 years old. A total of 51% or 191 of the participants were boys while 49% or 186 were girls.

As far as the ethnic heritage of the students, 31% of the students described themselves as coming from ethnic minority backgrounds describing themselves as Black, Muslim, Asian or Somalian, rather than English/Welsh, White or Christian. (Thurlow,C. 2001) The students were given a large questionnaire regarding various aspects of communication awareness. One of the questions that yielded a 100 percent response rate, students were asked the following: “ What words do people at school use for slagging someone off? Write down as many words as you can”.

I had to look this term up. According to Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, to slag someone off means to “criticize or deride someone harshly or to speak disparagingly about them” and derives from slag as a layer of waste material from coal mining or the smelting process”. (Robinson and Davidson, 1996) The students were reminded that their responses were completely confidential and were encouraged to write down everything they could think of. The students were not allowed to say the words allowed encouraging individual responses.

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