Two weeks ago, a tweet containing the homophobic slur f**got, directly mentioning Georgia College as its target, was sent out before GC’s potential closing due to inclement weather. Although it may have slipped under the radar and not have garnered much response, this incident deserved campus attention for several reasons.
It is my understanding that the image was tweeted once and then retweeted three times and favorited 12 times. Although some may have shared followers, when calculated, the tweet was potentially seen by more than 1,200 people. The fact that there was so little response should be newsworthy in itself. Although some may consider the tweet a harmless, thoughtless act, to others it is a slap in the face to the LGBT’ community. Lack of attention is dismissive of many painful, personal experiences as well as the violent history associated with the word f**got. After the incident, there was a large group of us who were sick to our stomachs, couldn’t eat nor sleep for the time being because of the thoughtless reminder of every time we’ve been called a derogatory name, condemned to hell or been a casualty of someone’s misguided attempt to be funny. As an apathetic response followed, it was further painful to be reminded of the times when no one stood up for us.
I do not believe that the students involved are individually hateful or homophobic. But the casual and prolific manner in which a homophobic slur can be distributed warrants attention and discussion.
If the editorial team did not see any reason to pursue a story about this incident, then I’m forced to question what kind of homophobic/transphobic occurrence needs to take place for there to be a story. And how does what we write about and don’t write about reflect our values, priorities and conscientiousness?
This was an opportunity to set a precedent for this type of behaviour; to take a stance that hateful, oppressive language is absolutely unacceptable. I am honored to see a response from the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. I am disappointed there was not a stronger student response. Although many reactions and discussions were present among the students in PRIDE Alliance, I feel there should have been more of a widespread conversation.
It is important that all of us examine our homophobic/transphobic attitudes and behaviours, and the environments we create that make these actions permissible. As trivial as this tweet may seem, if we let incidents like these fly under the radar, then the potential for more hurtful and violent actions only increases.
This is not about monitoring all offensive language on the Internet but speaking up when you see it, especially if it is both coming from a representative from your university and directed at your university.
I hope the campus will still see this as an opportunity to examine how homophobia/transphobia is present on campus and in ourselves as individuals, discuss oppressive language in social media and move toward a more mindful and accepting environment.
With concern and humility,
LGBT’ Program Coordinator
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