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You're not homophobic. So why would you use homophobic language on Twitter?

As The Economist reports, a new website launched by the University of Alberta is tracking the use of homophobic slurs on the popular social media site.

Although homophobia, in general, appears to be on the decline, the new site offers some alarming data. Derogatory words and phrases such as "faggot" and "dyke" and "so gay" pop up thousands – even millions – of times a day.

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The Economist notes that doesn't assume that people using such language mean to offend. Rather, it highlights "casual homophobia," the kind of throwaway phrases that people don't even really think about when using them, but are harmful nonetheless.

News of the website has touched a nerve.

"Frankly I'm tired & bored with PC garbage," one individual wrote on The Economist's website.

" 'Homophobic' is kind of a misnomer. When I call someone a dick, nobody would purport me to have a phobia of the male reproductive organ. In any case, the outcry over this kind of stuff is boring and smacks of political correctness," another wrote.

Which raises the question: Since when was political correctness – refraining from using phrases and making jokes that exclude or demean others – a bad thing? If a phrase is considered offensive even if we don't mean to be hurtful, shouldn't we make the effort to stop using it?

Consider Yunel Escobar's act of casual homophobia this September. The Toronto Blue Jays shortstop appeared in a home game with the phrase, "tu ere maricon" (which can be translated as "you are a faggot") written under his eyes.

As Escobar explained, he didn't intend to direct his "joke" at anyone in particular. "I have close friends that are gay," he told reporters, according to the CBC, "my home decorator is gay, my hair stylist is gay and I have several friends that are gay. And they haven't felt offended about the situation. This is just a language misunderstanding."

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But even if no offence were taken, most would probably agree Escobar's move was seriously boneheaded at best.

The thing is, there really is no need to use derogatory phrases on Twitter or in casual conversation. They aren't funny. And if you're not homophobic anyway, why use them?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More


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