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Everyone at my school says, “That’s so gay,” when they mean something is stupid or bad. As a gay student, I find it really offensive and annoying, and I want to say something back. At the same time, I think my teachers should say something, not just me—the so-called token gay student. What can I do?

You’re right—your teachers should take responsibility for making the school environment safe for all students. Many schools have harassment policies in place that teachers are required to enforce.

Even though there are things you can do, it is worth noting that it can be exhausting to be the one “token” gay student who takes on the burden of educating students and teachers about gay issues. If you feel up to the challenge, here are some ways to bring about change so that you don’t always have to be the only one “doing something.”

1. Find a teacher or administrator that you particularly trust, or who has reached out to you in the past. Talk to him or her about how you are feeling, specifically what it feels like when students say, “That’s so gay,” and teachers don’t say anything.

If your teacher seems interested and asks how he or she can help, here are some suggestions:

  •  Ask the teacher to research the school’s harassment policy and share it with the rest of the faculty. If the policy doesn’t specifically include harassment based on perceived or actual orientation, ask the teacher to consider advocating for an updated policy. You could get other students involved in this, too.
  • Help organize a training for teachers on LGBTQ issues at school. Ask the speakers who come to the training to talk about the expression, “That’s so gay.” Find speakers here.
  • Ask the teacher to talk to other teachers about the expression, “That’s so gay,” and their required role in responding to the harassment.
  • Help start a gay-straight alliance (GSA), so that an entire team of students can change the climate at your school to be more aware of homophobia.

2. Do some research. If your state school system has adopted the “Safe Schools” laws, then this expression is considered harassment and must be stopped by the school administrators. Check out Sexetc.org’s Sex in the States to review the laws in your state. Be sure to follow the link in the sources for updates.

3. Go straight to the top and talk to your principal. You could try to talk to him or her about how problematic “that’s so gay” is and ask that it be addressed in a staff meeting with teachers. If you want to do some research on this topic before you talk to your principle, then try these websites: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and Lambda Legal.

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