A new advertising and public relations campaign produced by the Ad Council in conjunction with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), seeks to target homophobic language in teens. As the campaign points out, there are more than 80,100 on-line sites containing the phrase “that’s so gay,” intended to be an insult. The campaign’s website, ThinkB4YouSpeak.com, contains information for teens, parents, and educators, and hopes to educate about the power of language, and how painful these words can be, especially to a young person struggling with his/her sexual identity. The campaign also extends into social network sites, using mediums such as Facebook and YouTube to spread its message.
This past spring, I attended a fundraiser for GroundSpark Productions, an educational documentary film company that produced the groundbreaking 1999 film It’s Elementary, and the sequel It’s Still Elementary, re-interviewing the original participants. One of the film clips shown that day, from a new film called Straightlaced, featured a powerful segment about Latino boys shopping for clothes. The kids didn’t choose their clothes based on their personal taste preference, instead they intentionally chose clothes that were baggy, that hid the outlines of their bodies, and were in somber colors. Why? Because they didn’t want to look gay or be perceived as gay. The realization that societal homophobia was driving the actions of a group of straight teens was a powerful eye-opener about how hate and prejudice affect everyone, not just the targeted group. Check out GroundSpark’s work here and read more about these films and how you can bring copies to a school or community near you.