In the interest of the first amendment, we stay quiet.
At the time of the second snow day for Georgia College, a tweet tagging our campus was published calling the school faculty a “f**got” for taking too long to send out a school cancellation email. This sparked outrage amongst the LGBT’ club and prompted them to send a letter to the editor expressing their opinion.
This letter brought up many of questions amongst our staff, varying from what is considered homophobic to what is considered newsworthy. Some of our openly-gay staff even voiced concern about taking the word homophobic a bit too far and corroding our readers’ trust based on biased coverage.
To recap the situation briefly for those who weren’t involved: the “f**got” tweet was brought to the attention of our News Desk, but after discussion, we decided not to run a story covering the incident. This isn’t because we didn’t find the tweet offensive or that we didn’t think it was something the campus should discuss. In fact, it’s the contrary.
We are here to uphold the First Amendment on this campus. We strive to have a diverse editorial board that will bring up a variety of viewpoints. We are here to publish the popular and unpopular opinion. Our Opinion page has seen letters that run directly contrary to Our Voice that week. All this to say, The Colonnade is not the voice of its editors, it is the voice of the students.
However, that does not make us the free speech police. We aren’t going to write an article for every tweet that tags our university and offends someone. Consider “Blackout_Bobcat” or the “Milledevillian” for a moment, and you’ll see that our job would quickly become impossible if we did. We’re here to promote free speech, not to be the ones going behind people saying “You really shouldn’t be saying that,” because at the end of the day, it is their right to express their beliefs. Agree or disagree, we have to respect that.
Now, on the topic of homophobia: As a group of dedicated writers and editors, we feel the use of this term has gotten a little out of hand. Just because someone intentionally or unintentionally insults a gay person, doesn’t make the person nor the slur homophobic. As understood by the American Psychiatric Association, homophobia is an “aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture.” It is not a term that is by definition, derogatory, and it’s a bit far beyond the average person to decide whether someone has an uncontrollable mental disorder.
Sure, definitions change, but to label anything derogatory to LGBT’ interests as homophobic unnecessarily dilutes a clinically useful term. We need to start calling these derogatory terms for what they are: insults.
In doing so, the discussion is strengthened by calling it what it really is: cyber-bullying.
Let us make one thing abundantly clear: The Colonnade is in absolute support of LGBT’ rights. The thought of people being belittled, mocked, persecuted and even killed for something completely out of their control is sickening. The law should not state who a person is allowed to love. Period.
With that being said, it’s unfortunate to hear that slurs offensive to the LGBT’ community – and anybody else who finds them offensive – are being used on social media. This form of cyber-bullying, however cowardly it might be, is very hard to combat, and although witnesses to the bullying have the right to call them out, not much in a form of punishment can be instilled.
Although it may seem like we’re not interested in supporting LGBT’ rights in our paper, it really is the contrary. We are all striving to better the future for the gay community, but hate will always abound, and sometimes it’s not our place to say no to it.