“That’s So Gay” Is Not Okay

Bullying includes behaviors such as hitting, teasing, taunting, spreading rumors and gossip, stealing, and excluding someone from a group. Bullying actions are carried out on purpose with the intent to harm someone.

Bullying is usually a repeated activity. However, it may also occur as a one-time event. It always involves a power imbalance. The person bullying has more power due to factors such as age, size, strength, support of friends, and access to resources such as toys.

Children and adults sometimes find it difficult to recognize bullying. For example, a fight between friends or rough play between children with equal power are not bullying situations. They become bullying, however, when one person has more power and uses it to hurt, frighten, or exclude the other person

LGBT Students Harassed More Often

A 2005 study conducted on behalf of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say they feel unsafe at school. Ninety percent of LGBT students (versus 62 percent of non-LGBT teens) were harassed or assaulted during the past year. Being perceived as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is the second most commonly cited reason for frequent harassment.

In the worst cases, harassment results in death. According to a report by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “A majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. They may comprise up to 30 percent of (the estimated 5,000) youth suicides annually.”

It’s Not Okay

Many adults and students—gay and straight—seek to curb the use of “That's so gay.” In British Columbia, a campaign called “That’s So Gay Is Not Okay!” was launched last spring. Posters and slogan buttons were distributed to participating schools, with a goal of raising awareness and initiating discussion about homophobia.

Steve LeBel, teacher, media spokesperson, and resources coordinator in Gale, BC, said that when a teacher is wearing a button with a slash through the phrase “That’s So Gay,” kids who are curious or who have concerns know who to go to. “The little button has that power!”

Educators in participating BC schools have noticed a real change in school climate, according to Patrick Clark, coordinator for social justice programs for BC Teachers' Federation. The campaign buttons were “hugely popular,” said Clark. “They couldn’t make enough of them!”


Here are some resources for schools looking to launch similar efforts:

Gay-Straight Alliance Network

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-run clubs offering a confidential, supportive meeting space.

Day of Silence

The Day of Silence brings attention to bias and harassment.

No Name-Calling Week

This campaign provides schools with tools to eliminate bullying in their communities.

COLAGE Youth Leadership and Action Program

COLAGE's program unites high school and college-aged youth who have one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and-or transgender parents to build a peer community.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network)

GLSEN focuses on ensuring safe schools.

PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)

PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, their families, and friends.

GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)

GLAAD is dedicated to promoting fair representation in the media.

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