“That’s so gay” is an expression that’s hurtful to LGBT youth, say Ransom Everglades students who have launched an anti-homophobia poster campaign at the Coconut Grove school.
“I don’t say ‘That’s so gay’ because the words ‘gay’ and ‘stupid’ are not interchangeable,” says basketball player Jack Woolworth, a 17-year-old senior who posed in one of the posters.
“On our class Facebook page, there have been a lot of unnecessarily heated debates by some kids in our class being very homophobic,” he said. “I’m really proud of the kids in our class — a lot of them have stood up to that.”
According to a report recently released by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), three-quarters of LGBT students report they have heard the word “gay” used in a negative way or frequently at school. More than 47 percent say they commonly hear the expression “That’s so gay.”
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In Florida, more than 9 in 10 LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way, and almost 9 in 10 heard other homophobic remarks at school regularly, according to GLSEN.
Sophomore Noah Bennett, 15, says he hears the “that’s so gay” expression “like 40 times a day around campus.”
“I don’t think people were purposely being homophobic,” says Noah, a member of Ransom Everglades’ student gay-straight alliance (GSA). “It’s offensive to gay people because it’s bringing them down. It’s an insult. I don’t want anyone to be insulted.”
Earlier this year, Noah told GSA faculty sponsor Gregory Cooper about a Duke University ‘That’s so gay’ poster program he had read about on the Internet.
“I showed him the article and we said, ‘Let’s try getting some kids from our school. Let’s make our own,’” Noah recalled.
Eleven classmates worked with student photographers to craft posters dealing with gender and sexual-orientation issues. Among the topics: “That’s so gay,” “Don’t say fag” and “You’re such a girl.” The posters are displayed throughout Ransom Everglades’ middle and upper schools.
“I’m not a member of the GSA, but when I signed on to the project they explained it to me. I thought it was a good idea,” says Erica Scott, a 16-year-old junior.
“People shouldn’t say things that could potentially belittle members of our community,” Erica says. “It’s uncomfortable for all parties involved. I guess the people who say it don’t mean it badly, but it has a negative impact on pretty much everyone. People who are gay or aren’t gay feel uncomfortable by the use of the language.”
Soccer player Lucas Rodriguez, an 18-year-old senior, says he volunteered to be on a poster “because someone’s sexuality shouldn’t be used as an insult.”
Lucas’ poster hangs in the school library and the boys’ locker room.
“The posters are really good because they challenge people to take it seriously, to rethink the impact of their words,” he says. “No one really speaks up about it. Most of it is going on in the field, away from the coaches. Adults are not really that involved, so it’s up to the students to do it.”
Jack Woolworth says he hears anti-gay talk “a lot” on campus.
“I’m on the basketball team and in the locker room and by kids in general, it’s used way too much,” he says. “It belittles people. I’m friends with a lot of gay people. I’m close to a lot of gay people and you don’t say ‘that’s so gay’ when you refer to something as ‘that’s so stupid’ or ‘that’s not a good thing.’ The things are not comparable. You can’t do that.”
Jack has attended Ransom Everglades since the sixth grade. He says he has seen many societal changes on campus, particularly since it became acceptable in class to discuss LGBT issues.
“The GSA has brought a lot the past couple of years to bring awareness to the school,” he says. “It’s very appropriate to talk about this in school because we need to educate people. You can’t send people out of high school thinking that it’s OK to say ‘that’s so gay’ and call people fags. It’s just not OK. Part of schooling should be educating people on social issues. This is one of them.”
These Ransom Everglades students posed for posters
▪ Victoria Basadre, 12th grade
▪ Kavya Chaturvedi, 10th grade
▪ Eduardo Garcia-Montes, 12th grade
▪ Andrew Geraghty, 11th grade
▪ Lucas Machado, 11th grade
▪ Lucas Rodriguez, 12th grade
▪ Erica Scott, 11th grade
▪ Carter Shoer, 12th grade
▪ Liana Tellez, 12th grade
▪ Zoe Tolon, 10th grade
▪ Jack Woolworth, 12th grade
▪ Stephanie Bent, 11th grade
▪ Dylan Cohen, 11th grade
▪ Michael Colonna, 10th grade
▪ Anyssa Francis, 10th grade
▪ Benji Freeman, 10th grade
▪ Kelly McKenney, 10th grade
▪ Hermes Soza, 10th grade
▪ Alex Tran, 10th grade
▪ Max Zaldivar, 10th grade