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The Meaning of Gay

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Diversity and acceptance are two of the most important words of our time. They are at the center of some of the biggest social movements of the past few centuries including the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, and the LGBT+ Rights Movement. At Kennesaw Mountain, these words are a source of pride as our school supports one of the most diverse populations in the area. However, diversity does not guarantee acceptance. We live in a culture that is used to marginalizing people who are different, particularly people within the LGBT+ community. We use words like “gay” and “queer” as derogatory terms – slurs – when for many people those words represent their identity. We tend to think of our school as being very progressive and open to the LGBT+ community, but in some cases we are not. Two students here at Kennesaw Mountain want to change that.

“One time, a kid said some hurtful things. I was asking him to be quiet because we were about to go on stage for a performance and he told me to ‘shut my transgender %$! up.” These are the words of Jaydn Adkins, a senior at Kennesaw Mountain. According to him, “I’m always hesitant when it comes to going into the actor’s dressing room or the boys bathroom and it just, it hasn’t been very pleasant.” Jaydn is describing a feeling of discomfort that no student should have to face. Unfortunately, he is not the only one. Student Becca LaFalce, a junior, said “I have definitely gotten some eye rolls when I specify my sexuality.”

These students have faced varying degrees of discomfort at KMHS, with their main issue being peers using terms such as “gay” as derisive words. Jadyn told me “Gay and trans are the correct terms like, I don’t mind those, but words like ‘tranny’ or using terms in a derogatory way it’s annoying and it’s ignorant and I wish it would stop.” Becca said that “I find the use of homophobic slang terms almost ridiculous and obsolete.”

Unfortunately, the world does not seem to be on the same page. Just go on YouTube and check out some of the most popular channels. I guarantee you will find at least one where the YouTuber says the word “gay” as a derisive term. It’s just a part of our culture now, like “Google it.” But does it have to be? Do we have to abuse words that have such a deep meaning for so many people? Jaydn and Becca don’t think so. “Tolerance and acceptance will grow if people learn more about the community and make genuine connections with its members” said Becca. “Everyone must learn to discuss, listen, and have an open mind.” Jaydn suggested that “We could have a club or something to educate people. Just like, what’s okay and what’s not okay.”

To Becca and Jaydn, finding tolerance is not just about battling homophobia; it’s also about battling the ignorance towards the LGBT+ community that is still prevalent in today’s culture. And acceptance is not just about earning civil rights; it’s about the right of LGBT+ students to be themselves at their schools instead of having to hide out of fear. As Becca put it, “We’re all in school to gain a better education; no one deserves to feel uncomfortable while doing so.”

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The Meaning of Gay