Homosexuality in UNIS – How Accepting Are We As a Community?

Used with Permission from Sophia Edens
Used with Permission from Sophia Edens

On the surface, UNIS may appear to be an accepting and diverse place, but UNIS is home to a not uncommon epidemic of ‘gay’ jokes that can be offensive to the LGBT+ community. While most UNIS people aren’t outwardly homophobic in the ‘I hate gay people’ sense,  some people are still using  the word ‘gay’ as a synonym for bad, girly, or just anything they deem to be negative. While they may not deliberately try to be insulting, referring to someone’s sexuality in a manner that is perceived as derogatory is demeaning regardless of intention. The common use of ‘gay’ as an insult has led to  some people arguing that the term has  changed its meaning. Is it fair that the positive meaning of ‘gay’ is referred to a homosexual change? Homosexuals have to constantly hear a label of their own sexuality being interchangeably used as terms for ‘lame’, ‘gross’ or ‘bad’.

There are people who tease others by saying something along the lines of ‘he’s gay’ or ‘he’s attracted to men’, which is problematic as it implies that being gay is a joke (people rarely refer to females as ‘gay’). On the occasions I do call people out, they often say it’s just a joke between friends. While that may seem like a reasonable excuse, what if the person referred to as ‘gay’ (or anyone else listening)  is questioning their own sexuality, and the joke actually affects them deeply? Being homosexual is clearly not a joke and people should stop teasing others by calling them gay, whether they are or they aren’t.

Even more offensive is the use of the slur ‘faggot’ – a term frequently used, especially in the high school setting. Though this word tends to be thrown around quite freely, it is deeply rooted in hatred and was used in the past when persecuting homosexuals intentionally. I hear many people at UNIS referring to their friends as fags, and am aware that it is insensitive to the people who have suffered- and who are still suffering — because of discrimination against their sexuality.

At a time where people are still being discriminated against for being homosexual, when  77 countries prohibit homosexual relationships when homosexuality is punishable by death in 7 countries; using hateful words and joking about homosexuality is not okay, regardless of intention.

UNIS, in particular, should be more accepting. The UN aims to “Safeguard freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for LGBT and intersex people. Any limitations on these rights must be compatible with international law and must not be discriminatory”. As a UN school, we have an obligation to be accepting to the LGBT community and follow these UN guidelines.

I do not believe that most people who joke about sexuality and casually toss around gay slurs and jokes have inherently bad intentions – they are just not aware of the harm such a simple joke can cause. However, this can’t continue if we want our UNIS community to be accepting to the already marginalized people in the LGBT+ community.