Op-Ed: Hate speech hurts community, students

How much longer will homophobia be acceptable in mainstream society? Sexist, racist and anti-Semitic words have finally come to be recognized as hate speech, yet homophobic speech is still heard daily and largely goes unchecked.

As reported to GWPride Friday, a group of students walked past the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house on their way home from an event. One fraternity brother shouted out, “I hate fags,” while pointing himself out proudly to the students as well as his fellow brothers who stood outside of the house. While this ignorance and bigotry did not go unnoticed by the gay students or the University Police Department officers who filed a report, it was obviously acceptable to those outside the Delta Tau Delta house. Is this behavior something that we, as members of the GW community, find acceptable?

While the executive board of GWPride defends people’s rights to free speech, we challenge an environment in which hate speech is either unnoticed or even condoned. Moreover, hate speech takes a particularly destructive toll not only on the persons targeted but also on the entire community. Anti-gay harassment is not an altogether uncommon incident at GW, and the seriousness of such incidents cannot be overstated. A similar comment aimed at students in a different minority group would have probably elicited a much more dramatic uproar instead of being seen as a common occurrence. On behalf of our members and those students involved in the incident, GWPride refuses to let this incident be ignored.

How many times during a day do you hear “gay” used negatively? Have you ever heard “fag” and just dismissed it quickly? Perhaps you dismiss it because you are not gay. You are not one of “them.” But these words should be taken seriously and all people, gay or straight, should be angry that this kind of hate speech is still acceptable in our society. Such language is not victimless, nor should it be acceptable. It is emblematic of the ever-present homophobia that permeates our society.

The majority of those who choose GW for their higher education do so because of their desire for a more diverse and open environment. Unfortunately, this hatred can be found in all aspects of our society, and GW is no exception. While it is understood that people have a right to say what they believe, as hateful as it may be, it should also be understood that those of us who are offended have an obligation to respond. Moreover, those offended should not be limited to gay and lesbian students. All students, faculty and staff should be offended when hate speech occurs in the place they have chosen to call home.

Think before you speak, and listen to what others are saying. We all have a responsibility to stop hate speech, no matter how casual and acceptable it has become. In our society gays and lesbians make up a minority. However, the brother involved and the other ignorant and bigoted students on this campus have to realize that here, those of you with those intolerant views will find yourselves in the minority.

-The writer is executive chairman of GWPride.

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