Monday, January 26, 2009

It’s No Name Calling Week In A School Near You

Wouldn’t it be nice if every week was no name calling week? Unfortunately name calling is a staple part of school culture in the United States. To address this seemingly ubiquitous practice, GLSEN sponsors an annual No Name Calling Week every year in January and this is the week. You can go to the No Name Calling Week web site to find a slew of activity and curriculum ideas for addressing name calling in schools.

No Name Calling Week focuses on name calling of all kinds. It’s all painful stuff when you’re in school and homophobic name calling is a big part of the problem. In grades 5-8, the ages targeted by GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week, calling someone a “faggot,” “queer,” or “lezzy” probably has more to do with non-traditional gender expression as it does with sexual orientation and it illustrates how interconnected homophobia and sexism and gender oppression are. Of course, “that’s so gay” is a universal middle school put down of just about anything from clothes to food.

It Takes A Team is proud to be a partner with GLSEN for No Name Calling Week. We have developed several activities and curriculum ideas specifically for school athletics to be used with coaches and athletes. These activities are available on the It Takes A Team web site news and features page. I don’t have any stats, but I’m betting that name calling in athletics is a particularly persistent problem since sports are so tied up with masculinity. Homophobic and sexist taunts among male athletes and fans are an on-going problem in sports at all levels. Among women athletes and coaches, the lesbian label is still used to discredit, intimidate or taunt a team, a coach, or a player.

When I was in junior high (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), we had this thing called “Queer’s Day.” It was every Thursday. If you wore green on Thursday, everyone called you “queer” all day. It was a big joke to most people. LGBT people were so invisible back then that the thought that one of your classmates could really be queer was unimaginable. Except that some of us were…queer and we didn’t think Queer’s Day was a joke. The word itself terrified me and I would have died if anyone knew about me. I was extra careful about my choice of clothes on Thursday. Anything green (and I) stayed in the closet. The teasing would have been too close to home for me. I often wonder which would be worse, having homophobic name calling be so common in schools that we need an official No Name Calling Week to address it or having the silence about gay people be so deafening that it could all a big joke to be enshrined in middle school culture as Queer’s Day.

Either way, it hurts. It hurt young people back then and it hurts young people now. Enough.


Anonymous said...

I learned about "Only Queers Wear Green on Thursday" in mid-fifties San Francisco. My family had moved to a new neighborhood, which meant a new elementary school for me. I was in sixth grade, already aware I was queer, in the parlance of the day.

Reluctant to give in, but afraid to openly rebel, I wore green every Thursday, but not where anyone else could see it. Thank goodness for underpants with flowers and leaves printed on them!

In later years, I've kept it up, wearing green proudly for all the world to see. Whether anyone else understood, I was never sure. Thanks, Pat, for letting me reminisce!

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