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January 21, 2014 0

‘That’s So Gay’: Language That Hurts, and How to Stop It

The phrase “that’s so gay” has per­sisted as a way for stu­dents to describe things they do not like, find annoy­ing or gen­er­ally want to put down, while it is promis­ing that fewer stu­dents are hear­ing homo­pho­bic slurs than in pre­vi­ous years.

The phrase is used so com­monly that many stu­dents no longer rec­og­nize it as homo­pho­bic because it is “what every­one says.” When edu­ca­tors and other adults inter­vene, com­mon stu­dent responses include “I was just jok­ing,” “I don’t mean actual ‘gay peo­ple’ when I say ‘that’s so gay’” and “My friend is gay, and she doesn’t mind.”

This year marks the 10th anniver­sary of the Gay, Les­bian & Straight Edu­ca­tion Net­work (GLSEN) No Name-Calling Week. In its 2011 National School Cli­mate Sur­vey, GLSEN’s find­ings remind us of the work that still needs to be done.

  • 84.9% of stu­dents heard “gay” used in a neg­a­tive way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) fre­quently or often at school, and 91.4% reported that they felt dis­tressed because of this language
  • 71.3% heard other homo­pho­bic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “fag­got”) fre­quently or often
  • 61.4% heard neg­a­tive remarks about gen­der expres­sion (not act­ing “mas­cu­line enough” or “fem­i­nine enough”) fre­quently or often

These kinds of responses rep­re­sent the slip­pery nature of bias and how eas­ily youth can reflect larger social atti­tudes about dif­fer­ence. Biased lan­guage, when it isn’t checked, can esca­late to harsher behav­ior like bul­ly­ing, and may con­tribute to an emo­tion­ally, and poten­tially phys­i­cally, unsafe school environment.

Here are three things adults should con­sider when inter­ven­ing against biased language:

  1. Assume good will. Bias is per­va­sive, and in all like­li­hood a stu­dent is unknow­ingly reflect­ing a bias they heard from peers, the media or fam­ily mem­bers. The stu­dent will likely be open to feed­back and dia­logue. If they do not believe LGBT peo­ple should be mis­treated, their lan­guage should reflect that.
  2. Stay focused, and do not allow your­self to be immo­bi­lized by uncer­tainty or the enor­mity of the topic. Inter­ven­ing in homo­pho­bic remarks does not require a dis­cus­sion about sex­u­al­ity or the his­tory of anti-LGBT slurs. It is about using lan­guage appro­pri­ately and in a way that shows respect for diversity.
  3. Be clear about the bias behind the words. Good peo­ple some­times say cruel things. It doesn’t mat­ter if the stu­dent didn’t intend to be homo­pho­bic, because a neg­a­tive com­ment about any group has the poten­tial to hurt indi­vid­u­als and whole com­mu­ni­ties. While inter­ven­ing doesn’t require a dis­cus­sion about sex­u­al­ity or teach­ing about the his­tory of LGBT peo­ple and/or slurs, the teacher may decide that some class­room instruc­tion in these areas is useful.

 

For more resources, visit ADL’s addi­tional resource page and Cur­ricu­lum Con­nec­tions to down­load Unheard Sto­ries: LGBT His­tory cur­ricu­lum resource.

 

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June 28, 2013 5

One Giant Step Forward Towards Full Equality for the LGBT Community — What’s Next?

There is much to cel­e­brate in the Supreme Court mar­riage equal­ity deci­sions. The Anti-Defamation League filed ami­cus briefs in both U.S. v. Wind­sor and Hollingsworth v. Perry on behalf of a broad, diverse group of reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions, empha­siz­ing that there are many dif­fer­ent reli­gious views on mar­riage and that no one reli­gious under­stand­ing should be used to define mar­riage recog­ni­tion and rights under civil law.

Your rights should not depend on your ZIP code.

Your rights should not depend on your ZIP code.

ADL’s brief in the Wind­sor case began with the asser­tion that reli­gious def­i­n­i­tions of mar­riage vary, includ­ing per­spec­tives over whether or not gay and les­bian cou­ples may marry. Our brief then set out two argu­ments: (1) the Defense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA) vio­lated the estab­lish­ment clause because it was enacted with a reli­gious pur­pose, based on a par­tic­u­lar reli­gious under­stand­ing of mar­riage; and (2) DOMA vio­lated equal pro­tec­tion under the Fifth Amend­ment because it was moti­vated by moral dis­ap­proval of gay and les­bian peo­ple with­out any legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment purpose.

Our Perry brief urged the Court to reject the reli­gious and moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tions expressed by Propo­si­tion 8 pro­po­nents.  It demon­strated how, over the past quar­ter cen­tury, the Supreme Court has rejected laws dis­fa­vor­ing minor­ity groups based on moral or reli­gious dis­ap­proval alone – with one, now dis­cred­ited, excep­tion, Bow­ers v. Hard­wick. The brief looked back over time and showed how laws like slav­ery, seg­re­ga­tion, pro­hi­bi­tions on inter­ra­cial mar­riage, and laws dis­crim­i­nat­ing against women – laws that were jus­ti­fied on moral and reli­gious grounds – had ulti­mately been rejected by the Court.

ADL hailed the Court’s two deci­sions, while rec­og­niz­ing that much work remains to be done to pro­mote LGBT equal­ity.  Now that DOMA has been ruled uncon­sti­tu­tional, legal ana­lysts – and gov­ern­ment offi­cials – will be sort­ing out the range of fed­eral ben­e­fits that can now be accorded to legally-married same-sex cou­ples.  Same-sex cou­ples in Cal­i­for­nia can pre­pare for full recog­ni­tion and rights in their state. It is clear, how­ever, that, for now, the full range of ben­e­fits, priv­i­leges, and respon­si­bil­i­ties of mar­riage will con­tinue to be denied cou­ples in 37 other states.

More­over, at a time when it is still legal to fire employ­ees solely because they are les­bian, gay, or bisex­ual in 29 states – and in 33 states it is legal to fire some­one solely for being trans­gen­der — it is nec­es­sary to com­ple­ment this week’s for­ward progress with work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions, ini­tia­tives to pre­vent bias-motivated vio­lence, and pro­grams to pro­mote safe learn­ing envi­ron­ments for LGBT students.

To these ends, ADL sup­ports the Employ­ment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would expand exist­ing fed­eral employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion cov­er­age to include pro­tec­tion for those who are dis­crim­i­nated against based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and/or gen­der iden­tity.  ADL is a national leader in con­fronting hate vio­lence, hav­ing played a lead role in coali­tion work to enact and imple­ment the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA). And the League has also been in the fore­front of efforts to ensure safe school envi­ron­ments for all stu­dents, regard­less of their reli­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, or gen­der iden­tity, through the devel­op­ment of edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams  and bul­ly­ing pre­ven­tion initiatives.

While we cel­e­brate the great step for­ward in mar­riage equal­ity, we must not lose sight of the fact that   our nation has suf­fered a major set­back to civil rights when the Supreme Court struck down a crit­i­cal part of the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act, In this, ADL’s  100th anniver­sary year, we reded­i­cate our­selves to secur­ing, in the words of our found­ing Char­ter, “jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.”

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April 12, 2012 0

The Persistency of “Pinkwashing” Allegations at Columbia University

Colum­bia University’s Cen­ter for Gen­der and Sex­u­al­ity is the lat­est insti­tu­tion to jump on the “pinkwash­ing” band­wagon and claim that Israel’s pro­mo­tion of its pro­gres­sive record on LGBT rights is an attempt to divert atten­tion from its alleged human rights vio­la­tions against Palestinians. 

 On April 10, the Cen­ter – in con­junc­tion with Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) – held an event titled, “The Ethics of Pinkwash­ing: LGBT Rights in Israel/Palestine,” the sec­ond of two pinkwash­ing events at the uni­ver­sity in less than a week.

On April 4, the Cen­ter had spon­sored an event fea­tur­ing three pro­fes­sors and pro­fes­sion­als employed at the uni­ver­sity who trav­eled on an LGBT del­e­ga­tion to the West Bank sev­eral months ago.The Center’s deci­sion to sin­gle out Israel for crit­i­cism seems counter-intuitive given their shared com­mit­ments to pro­mot­ing sex­ual equal­ity rights. Indeed, this rel­a­tively new “anti-pinkwashing” cam­paign, which seeks to min­i­mize Israel’s LGBT val­ues and solely judge it within the con­text of the Israeli occu­pa­tion, appears to be an attempt to dis­credit any and all pos­i­tive aspects of Israeli society. 

The lead speaker at last week’s event, Kather­ine Franke (the direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Gen­der and Sex­u­al­ity), crit­i­cized Israel’s alleged exploita­tion of LGBT peo­ple, describ­ing it as a “self-conscious” and insin­cere pro­pa­ganda effort to divert atten­tion from the occu­pa­tion. Franke argued that “the one has noth­ing to with the other” and that Israel’s record on LGBT peo­ple should be kept dis­tinct from the occu­pa­tion. In fact, pro-Israel advo­cates com­pletely agree, albeit from the oppo­site per­spec­tive: Israel has the right to be proud of and pro­mote its LGBT record, which indeed has absolutely noth­ing to do with the occupation.

Franke also claimed that Israeli secu­rity orga­ni­za­tions often pres­sure gay Pales­tini­ans to col­lab­o­rate with the Israeli gov­ern­ment in exchange for asy­lum or promises of safety. She then accused Israel of cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where gay Pales­tini­ans are viewed with sus­pi­cion and are iso­lated by Pales­tini­ans because it is assumed that they are col­lab­o­ra­tors, rather than hold­ing Pales­tini­ans account­able for their treat­ment of LGBT people.  

Franke’s co-panelist, Pro­fes­sor Kendall Thomas, claimed that the sit­u­a­tion in the West Bank reminds him of the era of seg­re­ga­tion and Jim Crow laws in the U.S. Thomas also asserted that Israel’s Jew­ish char­ac­ter and democ­racy are on a “col­li­sion course” and can­not be rec­on­ciled with each other.

Claims of Israeli pinkwash­ing gained main­stream atten­tion after an op-ed on the sub­ject was pub­lished in The New York Times in Novem­ber. Pinkwashing-related events have since taken place dur­ing this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week pro­gram, and at sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties and other venues in recent weeks. 

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