Since July 5 of this year, the f-word (you know, the one most commonly used to describe a gay man) and its many equally as offensive variations have been tweeted more than 2.4 million times on Twitter. In fact, gay and lesbian slurs all seem to rank disappointingly high among social media users, according to a new study.
For example, tweeters have also used the phrase “so gay” more than 800,000 times to describe something negatively. The same goes for “no homo,” while “dyke” was used in more than 300,000 tweets. That’s why University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services has created a new online project – Nohomophobes.com - to serve as a social mirror for anti-gay language in our culture, especially in the world of Facebook, Twitter and other popular forms of social media.
“We never imagined the scale of casual homophobia that actually exists on social media,” says Dr. Kristopher Wells, the Institute’s associate director. “The use of homophobic language remains one of the few socially acceptable forms of discrimination in our society and make no mistake, leads to isolation, bullying, beatings and tragically youth suicide.”
Whoever came up with that old adage about words never hurting obviously never experienced the sort of linguistic bullying at the center of this project. And with athletes and celebrities increasingly using social media sites like Twitter to air their grievances and supply off-the-cuff commentary in real time, kids are being sent an onslaught of messages – slurs and all.
“Our faculty sees the impact of homophobic language and bullying first hand and educators everywhere should be committed to creating safer schools and communities for young people,” says Dr. Fern Snart, dean of the school’s Faculty of Education. “The use of homophobic language only serves to hurt, stereotype, and further isolate sexual minority students and we need to take a stand; ignoring such language is not an option.”
The creators of the site are asking people to police social media to make it a safer place for the LGBT community by encouraging people to use the #nohomophobes hashtag when they see or experience verbal examples of homophobia on Twitter, and to challenge their friends, colleagues and family members to rethink using these words.
“Our use of casual homophobia must end,” says Wells. “We are all responsible to put a stop to it. The lives of our youth, and the humanity of our society depends upon it.”