“Complete masculinity and stupidity are often indistinguishable.” H.L. Mencken
What sorts of feelings does hearing the word, “homo”, evoke for you?
This is what one of my 8th grade boys called another 8th grade boy during Spanish class on Monday morning.
Apparently, Boy #1 did not like being stared at by Boy #2. These two young guys are constantly trading barbs and insults. Not uncommon amongst boys of this age, but, calling someone a “homo” is where I call it quits.
Boy #1 could have chosen to say just about anything to Boy #2. But, he chose “homo.” Why?
I’m not really sure. Perhaps he felt his masculinity in jeopardy. Perhaps he was looking to get a reaction: What could top “homo”? Perhaps he just wanted to be mean.
What I do know is this:
1. Our society places a heavy premium on certain standards and beliefs re: masculinity, i.e. what it means to be a man – the macho man.
2. We develop our beliefs re: race, gender and sexual orientation from family members, television and peers. In many cases, those beliefs are filled with bias, ignorance and prejudice.
What’s especially perplexing is that I know that this young man’s parents would be shocked and surprised to know that he used this word in the manner he did. Unless, of course, there is something of which I am not aware, his parents do not hold prejudicial beliefs on the basis of sexual orientation, or any kind, for that matter.
When I called out Boy #1 on his action, he immediately knew and understood what he has said was inappropriate.
I do realize, though, that, I do not always respond to students in the best way when they use biased language. Perhaps it’s being a person of color, and hearing words, like “homo” is as visceral as hearing the N-word. While I do not respond in anger, I would like to be able to take a step back, explore, and discuss. Sometimes, this isn’t always possible.
To be continued, as they say. I will follow up with Boy #1.