LGBTQ month lesson on homophobic language

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Information about LGBTQ month lesson on homophobic language

Published on February 24, 2014

Author: jcbrignell



A lesson focusing on the importance of avoiding using homophobic language and teaching students about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

LGBTQ and language Why is it important to be politically correct?

What is homophobic language? • How would you define it? • What common examples do we hear?

Homophobic language • Homophobia can be defined as an irrational dislike, hatred or fear of individuals that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. • Homophobia can be physical, verbal or indirect. Is homophobic language a problem: • In this school? • In our society? • Around the world?

Common examples of homophobic language • Gay • Queer • Lesbian • Faggot / fag Are all of these words always homophobic? How do we decide?

Gay • Originated in the 12 century, derived from the French ‘gai’, to mean ‘joyful’ or carefree’. • In the early part of the 17th century, it began to be associated with immoral behaviour (‘carefree’ = ‘less-inhibited’) • In the 19th century the word ‘gay’ began to be used to mean a (female) prostitute, or a man who had many sexual partners, often prostitutes. • In the 1920s and 30s, ‘gay’ began to be used to refer to homosexual men. This additional meaning entered the dictionary in 1955. • In the 1980s, ‘gay’ began to also be used in a derogatory way as a synonym for ‘lame’ or ‘stupid’.

• So, the word ‘gay’ is not itself homophobic. • But using the word ‘gay’ to mean something is bad is. Why? What is the distinction here?

Political correctness • What is political correctness? • Is it important? • Why?

Politically correct language • Political correctness is the term used to describe language, ideas, policies or behaviour which seeks to minimise offence to racial, cultural or other identity groups. • We need to be careful about the language that we use, and the language that we don’t use. • The term is often used negatively by critics who see it as unnecessary.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis • The practice of using inclusive or neutral language derives from the idea of two linguists called Sapir and Whorf, called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. • Their idea was that language governs thought – so the language that you speak governs how you think. • For example, according to this hypothesis, sexist language promotes sexist thought. We can apply this to homophobic language too. • So, if you are constantly referred to as a “girl” when you are a grown woman, you will not view yourself as equal to a man. If you constantly see the female term come second in terms like “Mr and Mrs” and “Dear Sir or Madam,” you become conditioned to regarding the female as second rate. • And if you constantly hear ‘gay’ being used as an insult…

Why is homophobic language a problem? In secondary schools • 98 per cent of gay pupils hear ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ at school • 97 per cent of gay pupils hear derogatory phrases such as ‘dyke’ or ‘poof’ used in school • 95 per cent of secondary school teachers report hearing the phrases ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ at school • eight in ten secondary school teachers report hearing other insulting homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’, ‘dyke’, ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’

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This is (hopefully) how political corectness works: • Certain groups of people (eg LGBT individuals) have their rights and freedoms restricted due to the way they are categorised as part of a group which has a negative stereotype associated with it. • This categorisation is largely unconscious, and is facilitated by the fact that labelling terminology (eg dyke, faggot) is easily available. • By focusing on this labelling terminology and making it problematic, people are made to think consciously about the language they use to describe someone. • Once labelling becomes a conscious activity, the individual merits of a person, rather than their perceived membership of a group, becomes more obvious.

Put the following words under two headings, appropriate and inappropriate Lesbian Transgender Homosexual Dyke Faggot Lesbo Partner Girlfriend Husband Poofter Tranny Bisexual Queer Gay Homo Boyfriend Wife

Plenary •

Plenary • Has Facebook done the right thing? • How will this decision help to counteract prejudice? • What do you think of this new terminology? Write on your post-it note one thing you will or won’t do in the future to tackle homophobic language

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