The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) Student Services office offers a warm reception to its visitors. The reception area is littered with “Stop Hate” memorabilia, and visitors are welcome to check out books such as “Queer in America” and “The Other Side of the Closet,” free of charge.
The advocacy office, adorned with the colors of the rainbow and motivational posters, says all are welcome to stop by and chat, regardless of sexual preference.
Unfortunately, GLBT students aren’t always returned the favor. As terms like “fag” and phrases like “this is gay” and “you are so gay” saturate the campus and linger in the back of many students’ vocabularies, homosexual students find themselves receiving anything but a warm reception.
“I think most GLBT students feel their identities are overlooked,” said Randy McCrillis, GLBT Student Services director.
Relatively few incidents of harassment or ridicule toward GLBT students occur on campus, McCrillis said, but the inherent marginalization still exists.
“I think the campus is a far more welcoming environment than the greater Fort Collins community,” he said. “I think students feel less safe off campus.”
Although the student populace seems to be more tolerant than the community as a whole toward GLBT students, some intrinsic prejudice still haunts the university. Some students often, despite their nonchalant attitudes toward the gay community, find themselves using the word “gay” interchangeably with “lame” or “stupid.”
“When I say something is gay, I’m not really trying to use it in a derogatory way,” said Adam Keil, a freshman open option major. “It’s like another way to say ‘stupid.’ There’s definitely no intention to offend anyone when I say it.”
While these offhanded comments may seem to be nothing more than lighthearted, comical rhetoric to those who are not closely associated with homosexuality, it conveys a sense of exclusion to the GLBT population.
Senior art major and lesbian, Alyssa Amason, said she has taken a comical approach to dealing with such comments.
“I try to point out just how silly what they just said is,” Amason said. “If they said a backpack is gay, then I ask them if they really think their backpack is a homosexual backpack.”
Despite Amason’s efforts to take such circumstances with a sense of humor, she sometimes can’t help but to become a little irritated with students’ choice of words.
“I generally think the person is uninformed and ignorant,” Amason said. “The English language is so miraculous that you could find another word to describe what you’re trying to talk about. It’s bigotry and ignorance.”
Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t always stop at using ‘gay’ to describe something. Some students have incorporated and misinterpreted the use of a very pejorative term to the GLBT community. Some students have justified the replacement ‘fag’ or ‘faggot’ in lieu of calling someone an idiot, a loser or many other negative labels.
“I don’t even think about saying ‘fag,'” said Josh Simpson, a freshman natural resource major. “It’s just in my vocabulary as a derogatory term.”
Although Simpson admits he is afflicted with a mild case of homophobia, he does not intend to discriminate against the GLBT population as a whole.
“It depends on the homo,” Simpson said. “If you’re gay and not hitting on me, I’m cool about it.”
Students who use such blatantly prejudicial lingo often do so with little hesitation in the classroom and virtually in any public setting, but it seems their intentions are not to directly demoralize the GLBT population; that is, however, an undeniable consequence of such demeanor.
The use of the word ‘fag’ has taken a toll on students’ perceptions of the GLBT population. While many students may feel the word holds no bearing in their personal beliefs or on the students who are directly affected by its usage, GLBT students find the word renders a very negative perception of their lifestyles.
“Why?” McCrillis said. “I don’t get it. I often ask, ‘How does my identity have anything to do with you?'”
Consequently, GLBT Student Services offers Safe Zone training twice a semester for all students and throughout the year for organizations within the university who have requested such training. The training sessions are designed to battle the stigmas GLBT students face, which often lead to words like “fag” turning from an unacceptable prejudice to an accepted method of delineation.
Some students, however, have decided to completely eliminate the use of distasteful words from their vocabulary on their own accord.
“I stopped saying stuff is ‘gay’ because I didn’t feel appropriate saying it,” said Samantha Nagy, a freshman open option major. “We use it in such a way that it gives a negative connotation, which isn’t fair.”
Students with issues relating to the use of prejudicial language are encouraged to visit GLBT Student Services on the second floor of the Lory Student Center or on the Web at http://www.glbtss.colostate.edu.
J. David McSwane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org