“Just a Word”

After a whirlwind of events caused by COVID-19, I am incredibly grateful that we have all been able to return to school for a somewhat normal year. This year, I have expanded my interactions beyond the people in my “COVID bubble,” and in doing so, learned more about the people that I have gone to school with for almost four years. I have grown closer with some and mended tattered relationships with others, and for the most part, it’s been incredibly fulfilling.
However, one thing that particularly shocked me upon my return to high school was the flagrant use of slurs from my peers. It shocked me to see people with whom I have built micro-relationships and memories with – whether this means sharing a secret laugh during work time or an answer to a neglected homework assignment – so openly and unashamedly using such hateful words.
The most commonly-used slur that I have heard is a derogatory term used against members of the LGBTQ+ community, also known as the “F” slur. It breaks my heart to think that these people might not know the harmful implications of this word they are saying, and it makes me even more sad to think that maybe they do, but simply do not care.
This word was not created to be a cheap punchline, to assert dominance, or to poke fun at someone that you feel is different from you. This word was created solely to inflict hate upon an individual for something that they cannot change. This word represents the years of hate and violence that members of the LGBTQ+ community have faced and continue to face to this day.
For years, the people and government of the United States turned a blind eye to the hundreds of people who were dying from a virus that had been socially deemed a “gay cancer.” Those infected with the virus (now formally known as AIDS) were neglected by family, friends, and doctors and left to die. It was not taken seriously until heterosexuals began contracting it, as well.
As the years passed, scientists learned more about AIDS and found ways for patients to maintain a somewhat normal life with the virus. However, the discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community did not die off alongside the initial hysteria over the virus. Acts of carelessness and hatred toward this community were not left in the past.
People are still being beaten, terrorized, and sometimes murdered because of their sexual orientation. According to the United States Department of Justice, 20% of reported hate crimes in 2020 were motivated by the sexual orientation of the victims.
That slur that some may argue is “just a word” is emblematic of all of the violence and discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces.
That word represents the anger that one feels toward an individual because of something that they can not change. That word could be – and has been – one of the last words one hears before their life is taken from them. Simply put, that word represents pure hatred.
We all make mistakes, but the true measure of a person’s character is their willingness to own up to their mistakes and change.
I ask that students consider the implications and harmful impacts that the “F” slur and other slurs alike.
Those words exist only to harm. I ask everyone who carelessly and thoughtlessly uses that word to make a much-needed change in vocabulary.
While you may not be using slurs in a way that you believe to be derogatory or offensive, remember what those words represent. Please choose to be kind.