Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Okay, look, so I know that a lot of my students are not exactly progressive. Nevertheless, it must be said, this is my eighth semester of teaching, and this is the first time something like this has happened.

I was teaching this evening--or TRYING to teach; the early class went really well, with an effortless, free-wheeling discussion of paper topics, but the later one is always like blood from a stone, and this was no exception (and this isn't the first time my classes have had this night-and-day quality to them--an odd phenomenon). Nonetheless, I did my level best to try to engage people.

The subject of movie ratings came up, and to make the point that these things are very political and often highly questionable, I mentioned a preview that I saw, years ago, for a biopic of Oscar Wilde. This preview was rated R--not just the movie, but the preview. Instead of the usual green screen, it started with a ferocious red one. Hide the children! This preview was not in any way inappropriate for anyone, except that--as I noted--GAYGAYGAY! To which dude in the back responds--not really talking to me; more like just into the ether--"fucking fags" (it might not have been 'fucking,' I couldn't quite catch the first part, but the sentiment was apparent). One tries to be generally fairly laid-back when teaching, but this was obviously a moment in which it was necessary for me to inform him in no uncertain terms that this was NOT an acceptable mode of discourse. What? he responded, looking nothing more than confused. Well, what did you say? I asked, hoping that either I had misheard him or, at the very least, that he would have gotten the picture by then. Faggots? he responded, seeming genuinely puzzled. What am I supposed to call them? The generic "gay" apparently hadn't even occurred to him (not that not using a particular slur was going to magically change his attitude, but in this context, I'm not exactly equipped to deal with root causes, and I can't do nothing).

He got the message, sort of, but it's not as though he learned anything except possibly that his teacher has weird hang-ups about certain words. Homophobia this blatant and this deeply ingrained just blows my fucking mind, as naïve as that may make me. I don't know if there are any gay students in this class (there's definitely at least one in the other), but there've been plenty in the past, and even if not, what the fuck? How barely-socialized do you have to be?

You can say that something like this isn't a big deal, but I cannot laugh it off, because this is the kind of pervasive, toxic bullshit that adds up and leads to the recent (but really, just prominent recently--it's never not been a thing) rash of gay kids killing themselves that prompted Dan Savage to react with this (which is a really moving video that you should watch). And this is the same bullshit that is perpetuated by the sociopathic religious right, even with all their empty "love the sinner, hate the sin" rhetoric. It's also why I can never forgive Parker and Stone for that South Park episode where, haha, we're redefining "fag" to mean "douchebag"--no you're not, you fucking jackasses, because, for all your intolerably smug, way-too-cool-to-actually-care-about-anything attitude, people like this kid in my class exist, and YOU ARE NOT HELPING.



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