By Allyssia Alleyne
When I first heard that Tyler Clementi, an American university student, had jumped off a bridge after his roommate streamed footage of him having sex with another man on the Internet, I felt physically sick. I got the same feeling when I was standing with hundreds of people at a vigil for youths who’d committed suicide because of homophobic bullying. When you go to school so close to Canada’s largest gay community, it’s easy to forget that homophobia is still a major issue.
If you haven’t noticed, Ryerson has a thriving queer community. We’re fortunate to have on-campus groups like RyePRIDE and Positive Space to connect queer students and provide them with support and resources.
But these sorts of groups aren’t the answer to homophobia. To get rid of homophobia we all need to cut the bullshit and take a stand.
Now, I’m not in the business of arguing with people’s gods, traditions and ignorance, but being an intolerant asshole and discriminating against any group of people doesn’t give you the moral upper hand, no matter what you believe. It’s also against the law.
But the people who we most need to change their tune (or at least hum it a little louder) are the people who quietly claim to be disgusted by homophobia. Actions speak louder than words. Bitching indignantly to your friends, wearing a “Legalize Gay” tee-shirt and calling Lady Gaga “Lady Gay-Gay” aren’t enough.
The simplest step you can take is letting homophobes know that you won’t stand for their crap. Call them out.
I saw a perfect example of this tactic last Thursday. While browsing through over-priced shirts at American Apparel, I heard someone disdainfully yell, “Everyone who works here is gay.”
I whipped my head around and saw that the speaker was a little blonde kid who looked about 13.
“Really?” I said, eyebrows raised.
“Oh, I only meant the guys,” the boy said, blushing. One of the boys sitting with him kissed his teeth.
“Man, you are so damn homophobic,” he said.
That set them off. All of a sudden his entire crew was chastising him for his seemingly innocent statement.
Yes, embarrassing a peer in front of his friends is kind of awful, but small actions like this have the potential to make our world a less awful place to live. It’s a small step, but it’s a start.