During passing, I must admit that I do hear many students reference homosexuality in derogatory manners by saying expressions like, "that's gay" or call another student "a fag". While these are blatant expressions of negativity towards homosexuality, Dr. August notes that we do not necessarily have to use overt language to show our acceptance and promotion of heteronormativity.
I, like most teachers, hope that my classroom is an open and safe place for my students. While it is difficult to moderate all of the language used in the hallway, I always make a point to stop my lesson and ask a student to "watch his language" if he uses a derogatory term that refers to someone's race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. I often see many teachers at my school who do not address these commonly used phrases, so I figured I was doing something right to help my underrepresented students.
While I do think that it is better for me to say something rather than remain unconcerned when I hear these phrases, I am starting to realize that I too take the "path of least resistance" when I work with my students. For instance, if a student is late to class - she gets a detention. If a student says "that's gay", she gets a stern look and a "watch your language" warning from me. What kind of message do these two differences in punishments portray to my students about what I value? Likewise, part of my school's mission is to "value all students", but what do we tell out LGBTQA community members when we punish students for having cell phones in the hallways but we act like we do not hear the derogatory slurs and homophobia that endlessly persists in the same hallways?
So why don't more educators try to consciously take a stand against this marginalization? Dr. August suggests that it is because we often fear repercussions from parents and administrations. I have no doubt that this is what prevents many teachers from doing more. Personally, I think many educators hear their students say these phrases and they think "oh, they didn't mean anything by it" or "that was harmless." Admittedly, I do not think that all of my students who use these phrases intend to ridicule those who identify as LGBTQA. That's not the point though. The fact is, these small messages prevent us as a school and as a society from truly accepting all persons in our society. By not saying anything, we are part of the problem. We need to take an active stance to support all members of our schools, or else our passive stances actively support our culture of marginalization.