Gay bulling is receiving more and more attention in the media and schools and students are doing more to fight bullying. As discussions take place, some have gone as far as sayingbullying gay youth is healthy. In fact, the Elementary and Secondary Education Re-authorization Act (ESEA) made it out of committee without protections from bullying for sexual orientation. This is surprising in part because LGBTQ youth are more likely to commit or attempt suicide and report such high rates of bullying. Here are some statistics:
- 50% of elementary and middle school bullying incidents are based on gender or orientation slurs
- 80% of high school youth harassed as gay identify as heterosexual
- These youth are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-harassed peers
- Among those who identify as transgender, 60% are attacked in violent assaults
- Gay slurs have been part of all school shootings
I haven’t cared any more or any less than typical concerned citizens. I make sure I don’t take part in hate speech, and I make sure to comment when gay is used as a derogatory term. I was a typical concerned citizen until I attended a USU basketball game. USU basketball fans are known for being loud, energetic, and passionate. It’s an awesome experience.
But there’s another side to the coin. USU fans can also say things that leave students, spectators, and potential future USU students feeling uncomfortable, especially LGBTQ students. As an example, a group of guys sitting a few rows behind Dan and me shouted gay slurs every chance they got. Don’t agree with the call a ref made? Shout “you’re a faggot!” A member of the opposing travels? Shout “you’re a queer!”
Moreover, we were sitting next to the student section in the section USU reserves for recruits, visitors, scholars, and future (potential) students. What image are USU fans giving off to these people? That USU is potentially not a safe place for LGBTQ persons. This gives off the impression to people outside of Utah that this behavior is acceptable to Utahns. This needs to change.
Tell USU administrators they need to be more concerned about their public image.
These epithets weren’t directed at me or Dan per se, but they caused us to squirm in our seats. The exhilaration of the cheering became less exhilarating. You worry for your safety. What if they notice our wedding bands? Will we become the subject of their taunts? What happens when we leave the Spectrum — will we be safe? Or will we be another hate-crime statistic in Utah?
The only recourse we have is to remain silent and tune out the epithets. Moreover, hate speech laws in Utah don’t include sexual orientation. We could address it with school officials, but what more can they say other than “I’m sorry you experienced this” or “That’s upsetting, and I don’t agree with them.”
Questions I pose to readers are:
- How common are gay slurs at USU basketball games (or other sporting events)?
- What can be done to stop this type of behavior?