Saying “that’s so gay” has seemingly become a part of our daily language as children and young adults. Initially, it may seem as though there’s nothing wrong with saying it because there’s no apparent victim, especially when most people assume that the people they know are straight. But for some children, like Carl Walker-Hoover, just being straight is not enough to keep them from becoming victim of taunting words like “you’re gay.“
Carl Walker-Hoover was an 11-year-old boy who was constantly teased and bullied at school about his sexual orientation and the way he dressed. He had been the target of these homophobic remarks for weeks, and even threatened by his schoolmates. Carl was taunted so much that in early April, his mother found him hanging by an extension cord in their home.
This little boy was teased so much about “being gay” that he felt like his life was worthless.
One of my professors, who was raised during the segregation era, said, “In society we do things that are horrible, but when we’re surrounded by it, we don’t realize how horrible it is – until we’re pulled out of it.” He went on to say that when our generation has children, and when we tell them about what kind of society we lived in, they will be shocked by things we consider normal today.
This lesson can be alluded to African Americans during his generation and homosexuals during our generation. Especially because the youth, like the other 11-year-olds that taunted Carl, are our future. If they do not understand how wrong xenophobia is, hatred will continue, and more and more people will be hurt.
Harassment among children for being homosexual is not natural. People do not come out of the womb with a disposition to hate a specific sector of their peers. We have different temperaments, arguably different personalities, but socialization is the key in how we react to other human beings. These kinds of prejudices are taught, and picked up by friends, family and most commonly, and ironically, religion.
A statement as subtle as “that’s gay” reinforces the notion that there is not only something wrong with homosexuality, but, like most things that we call “gay,” it should be put to an end. These kinds of remarks are muted forms of discrimination. And this discrimination becomes so deep-seeded that 11-year-olds would rather die than be considered gay for one more day.
We look in history and are appalled that society and the government would allow discrimination against people that we consider equal under the law today. Discriminating against women, African Americans or Japanese would be completely unacceptable now.
Ironically, the same people who might agree that racism or sexism is wrong, would not hesitate to claim that homosexuality is either a) unnatural or b) not what God wants. This kind of illogical mindset is sadly the basis that allows an environment of hatred toward homosexuals to continue, which can result in violence or in Carl’s case in death.
Kind of as an aside: Even on a macro-level, like government intervention, marriage is considered between a man and a woman, by whatever religiously or morally propelled definition they use. And if marriage is religiously defined, which it obviously is, then the 1,138 legal benefits that marriages receive are a clear indication of an integration between church and state. Which the United States is allegedly against.
And in that same vein, what kind of action will law makers and government official takes to protect their citizens? Allowing discrimination between different spheres of society to exist in our laws only gives more power to those who feel inclined to use violence against these minorities.
There is a remarkable pattern in American culture to easily become prejudiced against the unknown. One day we will look back and be appalled by how blind we have been to blatant forms of intolerance in our society towards homosexuals. Hopefully, our generation can influence younger ones to use education and perpetuate advocacy rather than xenophobia.
SARA KOHGADAI gives her condolences to Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover’s family and true friends. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.