The following is a transcription between my sister and I about her status post on facebook:
STATUS:"Kickin sum butt on Fantasy Football cept Tony Homo is my quaterback and needs to learn to throw the dang ball! O and I saw his new gf on CW News and she's WAY dumber than Jessica Simpson...what a tool!"
COMMENT:"Do you think you could find another offensive insult besides "homo?" Maybe Tony "No-show?"
RESPONSE:"I just think it is ironic you say it is offensive now but before you were gay you said things like that ALL the time. I am not using the word HOMO in any duragatory way to offend homosexuals. It is a joke so lighten up. If you spend the rest of your life taken offense to puns on the word Homo you are fighting the wrong fight. People call eachother all kinds of words. That is all they are are Words. Now if i came up to you and said something like that to your face that would be offensive. That is all I have to say about that thanks :)"
RESPONSE:I can imagine that is frustrating to a family member of an LGBTQ person when they see these ironic instances of BEFORE and AFTER. I definitely don't think you were trying to be offensive towards me or any other LGBTQ person, I was just pointing out that it is offensive. I did and said a lot of things "before I was gay" (although I consider myself bisexual) that I'm not proud of including xxxx, picking on other kids at school, disrespecting the parents, making fun of people because they were a different race, etc. Just because I did those things in the past does not make them ok. The problem is that a lot of society uses the words "gay," "homo," etc. as insults as if there is something inherently wrong with being gay. By using those terms in a negative way you are reinforcing the idea that being gay is a bad thing. If words were just words it would be perfectly fine for me to call someone a n***** and to not expect my black friends to be offended. You could make similar examples in regards to religion, gender, education, class, etc.
I don't expect you to change the way you speak or your sense of humor. If it still feels ok to use that language I don't expect you to change it. I love you and I wouldn't let "words" come in between how I feel about my sister. I just felt it necessary to not sit back and let things slide just because society thinks its ok. I won't comment like that on your page again.
Love you and I hope that guy doesn't ruin the football season."
So it appears that society infiltrated my family long ago to normalize homophobia and that I was a bad role model in high school. The important part of this exchange is that I have the education to respond with knowledge, understanding, and passion instead of anger and hostility. My guess is that my heartfelt explanation will not be applied to my sister's life, and my hope is that she will not only apply it to her life but will also discuss the issue with her friends.
After all, that's what our work in Peers for Pride is all about: to educate and make change through meaningful discussion. My sister is a year younger than me and definitely reflects the pervasive attitudes amongst people her age (and really most people who hold privilege). When we speak on campus we are speaking to hundreds of my sisters. We are letting them know why insults like "homo" are not just words. We are not fighting the wrong fight, wasting our time, or being too sensitive when we confront homophobia. If we don't confront others, who will?