February 28, 2021
Library Administrative Assistant Steve Reed, married to Papenhagen, said he clearly remembers instances of homophobia directed toward him at ASL. Once, he said when trying to calm down a group of Grade 9 students in the library, one boy reached his arm around his shoulder and stuck his tongue out as if to kiss his cheek.
In retrospect, Reed said about the boy, “I don’t think you would do that if I were a straight man.”
Dawson and Linton said they notice the word “gay” frequently being used as a synonym for “bad,” classifying this likening as flippant homophobia.
Dawson said people have a tendency to say “‘that’s so gay’ for issues where they don’t feel comfortable with someone, I guess, being their self.”
Similarly, Linton said this phenomenon of casual homophobia is damaging for the LGBTQ+ community at large.
“Referring to something that’s bad as ‘gay’ is putting the whole community down,” he said.
In addition, Linton said there’s a power structure at play when it comes to men calling people gay. He said these men want to seem more masculine by distinguishing themselves as separate from the LGBTQ+ community.
Yardley said this othering happens as a means of masking one’s own insecurities.
“The clothes you wear, sometimes people call you ‘gay’ for it,” he said. “That’s just the scapegoat of, ‘I need to differentiate you and me right now because I’m— I’ve decided that you are weak, and I’m not weak.’”
Yardley was asked to consider how his experience with his cuffed pants would have been different if he were closeted. He paused to think, then said, “Tough, that is for sure,” especially in what he sees as an “objectively homophobic environment” among boys at ASL.
[Click here to listen] “A gay man is sexually attracted to another man,” he said. “That’s intrinsic about them. That’s not changing.
“It doesn’t change with the weather or the seasons or anything,” he said. “So when everyone around you is … making that seem as though that’s a negative, but it is intrinsically you, that’s hard to grapple with.”
Linton said ASL can be an unwelcoming environment for people questioning their sexuality. Specifically, someone describing something as gay could make someone questioning their sexuality feel uncomfortable. He said they could even feel like their identity is socially unacceptable.