Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gay Homosexual

This has been bothering me for a couple of weeks and I haven't known what to do about it - if anything. Usually if something bugs me it hits me pretty hard right up front and I react. In this case, it didn't really hit me until long after the fact and it's continued to nag at me so I've decided to at least get it out of my head and into writing and maybe that will help me decide if I need to do something about it.

A couple of weeks ago I was at Sugar's school helping spruce things up for the school's "Quality Review" (an odd practice by which a total stranger wanders around the school and meets with students, parents and staff to decide whether or not the school is well-run).

I had was in the middle of a project when I realized the time was going to run out on my parking meter. I remembered that a friend had said she was leaving the building and so I went running off to try to catch her to see if she could drop a couple of quarters in the meter - saving me from having to make a second climb up the four flights of stairs up to the school.

I ran into the school office, and discovered that my friend was gone already. As I stood there, debating with myself about whether or not it would be worth the ticket to avoid having to climb those stairs again, I heard one of the 2nd/3rd grade teachers on the phone with a parent.

I remembered that I'd promised to buy lunch for Sugar and realized I'd have to go out anyway. So I turned to leave the office and as I was walking out, I heard the teacher on the phone say,

"He called him a 'gay homosexual'."

I walked into the hall, shaking me head and thinking, "kids come up with the oddest things."
At the time I was struck by nothing more than the redundancy of the two terms together. I went and put money in my meter, bought lunch for Sugar and returned to school to finish decorating bulletin boards.

I was in the middle of completing my second board when I noticed a man hovering outside the classroom of the teacher I'd heard on the phone earlier. The principal walked up, spoke with the man in hushed tones for a few minutes and then went into the classroom and brought a boy, who I'm pretty sure is a 3rd grader out. The principal left, and the boy and man started talking,

Man: You called a kid a gay homosexual?

Kid: Yeah.

Man: Where'd you even hear that?

Kid: The other day, at the bus stop.

Man: Yeah.

Kid: Uh huh.

Man: Well, you can't call people that. Don't do that anymore.

Kid: OK.

Man: Really - don't. Do you know what it means?

Just then another teach walked up and started talking to me and I missed the rest of the conversation.

By this point I was uneasy about the whole thing. Something about the fact that the teacher called the parent bothered me...and also something about the tone of the man with the kid was bothering me as well. It all just made me feel out of sorts, but at the time I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, with all the running around that is my life, I kind of forgot about it.

But it kept coming back to nag at me every now and then and, eventually, I figured out what was bugging me. Why is it that calling a kid a "gay homosexual" is considered such an insult that it is worthy of calling a parent into school? I mean, he didn't call him the "f-word" or the "n-word" or some other derogatory term. He used two perfectly acceptable terms that are generally used to describe someone who is attracted to others of the same gender. Why is that an insult?

I mean, if it was flipped and was and ethnic things, would his father or guardian have been called into school if he called someone a "white Italian," or a "black African"? What if it was body features? "Hey, you tall brown hair!" or "You skinny big eyes!" Would those be considered insults?

Why is gay homosexual considered a derogatory term?

Now, I'm willing to concede - especially knowing the staff in the school and how liberal most of them are - especially the principal - that perhaps it had more to do with the kid making a sexual reference than anything else.

I hope that is just what it was...


The Bear Maiden said...

I dunno. Not knowing the particulars my first thought is that it IS inappropriate, though not necessarily an insult. Lately I've been thinking about "labels", in particular about color and I think it's a natural human tendency to want to categorize. But at the same time, we have to watch how we teach our children to categorize... because the other human trait is to attach values to those categories. Maybe it's over the top for the school to call home... but then again, maybe it's a conversation that the teacher DIDN'T want to have with the kid, but knew it was a conversation that needed to be had. And knowing people like I do, maybe the teacher just didn't want that conversation to come back and bite her in the ass, if she was the one to have it.

A comment was made recently by a child I know that "I don't flirt with Black girls". Needless to say, that comment was addressed rather quickly... and why was it that Black girls shouldn't be flirted with? Why is gay homosexual an insult?

I'm not sure that they are "insults"... heck... maybe the kid who called a gay homosexual IS gay, it happens this early but still... if you're going to say something like that you should be aware of what it is you're saying.

Fat Lady said...

Thanks, you just helped me put my finger on exactly what it was that bothered me.

It's that the teacher, and the parent both reacted as thought the phrase "gay homosexual" was an insult. Now, I'm guessing, knowing how kids can speak to each other, that the kid in question did use the phrase as an insult. But, what made me uneasy, though it's taken me forever to figure it out - is that I didn't hear anyone tell him that it's NOT an insult.

Now, I didn't hear the whole conversation between teacher and parent or between parent and child - so maybe I missed something.

But from what I heard, it seemed that the parent was informed and the child was reprimanded as though he had used a derogatory term towards another kid. And, that worries me because I wonder what it says not only to that kid but to the others around him.

Doesn't it send a message that being a "gay homosexual" is bad? Or at least undesirable? I think these kinds of subtle messages are the ones that form attitudes and ideas.