Saying it in the name of freedom

Never in my life have I been more intellectually stimulated than at Woodstock. I joined the school last July, and for the first time, I actually enjoy learning. Every person at Woodstock is unique and has their own story to tell. I have learned more about the world from discussions with my peers than from my actual classes. Keeping this environment alive and open for anyone to experience is extremely important to me.

Coming from a middle-class family in Seattle, one of the most progressive cities in the US, my political beliefs vary greatly from the views of my dorm mates. This resulted in me becoming involved in political discussions almost as soon as I arrived. One of the first dilemmas I faced was the use of homophobic slurs. I had been brought up to believe that the LGBTQ+ community deserves our respect and using homophobic slurs degrades them and is unacceptable.

At home, everyone shares my views and I was never forced to question, or even stand up for, my own beliefs. Coming across people directly contradicting what I had been brought up to believe, I was put in an unfamiliar position. Throughout my first semester I convinced myself that as long as I wasn’t using these words I was being noble enough to my morals. However, after I went home for winter break and reassimilated myself into the perfect politically correct environment in Seattle, my outlook changed.

It is extremely harmful to use homophobic slurs, especially in an environment like Woodstock.

As a new student at Woodstock, I know how hard it can be to adapt to life here. Moving into a dorm with complete strangers is a difficult thing to do regardless of who you are. And if one were to feel like who they are wouldn’t be respected or even accepted, it would become practically impossible.

Overall, I believe that Woodstock is an accepting place, and the majority of the Woodstock community isn’t actively trying to exclude anyone. I just think that people don’t understand the strength of their words, or they do but chose not to change their behavior.

Many people at Woodstock believe that if there is no one around who would be directly offended by the word then it is fine to say it. This is an excuse is flawed to me for many reasons. If you respect someone enough to avoid offending them to their face, then you should respect them at all times not just when they are directly in front of you. It’s like talking behind someone’s back. If you truly respect who they are then you should stand up for them and respect them constantly, not just when it’s convenient for you.

The prevalence of homophobic slurs at Woodstock makes it impossible for someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ to feel accepted and safe. It would be very hard to come out to someone who uses homophobic slurs towards you. Furthermore, many people aren’t certain about their sexuality, and having people constantly using these words just reinforces the taboo around being gay. This can cause people to be ashamed of identity and suppress their feelings.

The purpose of this article isn’t to dictate what words you can and cannot say, it’s to educate about the effect these words can have. The use of homophobic slurs destroys the sense of safety and acceptance that is necessary for a school like Woodstock to have.

Regardless of school rules or social norms at Woodstock, I hope everyone at least considers the morality of using words like these. No one can tell you what to do except yourself. Freedom is a right everyone is born with, but how you use your freedom is up to you.

 James McGough is a staff reporter for The Woodstocker. 

Edited by Navya Sethi 

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