The insensitivity of slur usage seems to be a focus of today’s social media and societal wokeness. In today’s world, racial slurs can get someone suspended from their university or fired. For example, the New York Post ran a story about a teen who was removed from her college and cheer team after a fellow student posted a video of her using the N-word.
Although this is a step in the right direction, I have noticed slurs against the LGBTQ+ community still seem to slip by with minimal repercussions.
It is surprising to scroll through Instagram and still see people posting offensive slurs on their accounts, and I am even more surprised to see hardly anything is done about it. In one person’s Instagram highlight reel, I saw they used a transphobic slur. Yet, somehow this post was never removed or reported.
There are very few examples of times where those who used and posted homophobic or transphobic slurs faced consequences. However, in August 2020, The New York Times published a story about a Fox Sports announcer who was suspended for using a homophobic slur during a live broadcast.
More common are the anecdotes of LGBTQ+ discrimination in schools. For example, a student-athlete was expelled by his Christian school headmaster because he was gay. There are also examples of LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace. Instances where a boss gives workers of a certain sexual orientation worse rankings and harsher reviews than other workers for no reason other than their orientation is just one example. Other discriminatory actions, such as giving out preferred tasks or positions to workers of heterosexual orientation, are also common.
Although some workplaces and schools may issue a slap on the wrist for using these kinds of slurs, there needs to be a bigger change.
These derogatory words and phrases hurt many people and are extremely offensive. Slurs are never just a harmless joke. Feelings matter.
Companies and schools should not be OK with their employees or students treating others as less than. They should penalize those who use offensive language on social media or in person.
Unfortunately, the decision to impose consequences for those who use this kind of hate speech is up to the specific school or workplace. This is partially because hateful speech is legal in the United States under the First Amendment.
According to The Legal Project, democratic countries such as France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Canada and Mexico all have laws either prohibiting or limiting hate speech. For example, the Netherlands’ Dutch Criminal Code prohibits public use of certain discriminatory language.
Similar legal consequences in the U.S. would not only help protect the LGBTQ+ community, but also help so many other oppressed groups. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. see any kind of limit to the First Amendment as a threat to a citizen’s freedom of speech.
A USA Today opinion article argued that we do not need similar hate speech laws to Europe, stating; “These standards notably depend not on how words are intended, but how they are received or perceived by third parties.”
Laws like those already implemented in Europe would be an amazing step toward limiting slurs, especially language posted and stated in public places where people should feel comfortable.
As we are currently far from that possibility, organizations need to work harder to make sure the people they have in their workplace and schools have good character. At the very least, students and employees should not be posting or using homophobic and transphobic slurs in public.
Although we are lucky enough to have freedom of speech in the U.S., people need to understand the weight of their openly discriminatory language.
Hate speech is not acceptable. We need to move past using slurs that are harmful to the LGBTQ+ community. Although some people may think they are simply making a tasteless joke, it can be very harmful to the mental health and self-worth of individuals.
While we have yet to pass legislation that criminalizes those who use these slurs, we still have the ability to hold people accountable in other ways. Call out individuals you catch using hateful speech, be public about your rejection of slur usage and don’t be afraid to report people’s hateful language to their superiors if the chance arises.