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February 17, 2012
Vol. 53 No. 15

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Professor addresses homophobic bullying

Glen Retief
Glen Retief's recent article published in Your Teen Magazine addresses homophobic bullying, which is an issue he said should be examined in the Susquehanna community, as well.
Retief, a creative writing professor, wrote a book titled "The Jack Bank: A Memoir of a South African Childhood" about the homophobic bullying he experienced while growing up in South Africa.
He said part of the reason he wrote the article was to "share my story with people and to alert people to the book as a resource." He added, "I want to help people understand what the impact of teen bullying can be."
Your Teen Magazine helps parents learn how to deal with teenage bullying, sexuality and general conflicts, according to Retief.
He said the best thing parents can do to help if their child is a victim of homophobic bullying is to show "moral outrage."
"They need to let them know that it's not their fault," he said.
Retief said he believes that acceptance in this country toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has improved but that much progress still needs to be made.
"There's far more awareness than there was even 10 years ago," he said.
Retief said he believes Susquehanna is overall an accepting place toward the LGBT community. "There has been no discrimination whatsoever and complete acceptance here as a faculty member both from students and my colleagues," he said.
Retief added that because he is not a member of the student body, he isn't certain if student acceptance differs from what he has experienced as a faculty member.
Sophomore Anne Wolfe, president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), said she believes that Susquehanna is a pretty accepting place of the LGBT community.
GSA is a club whose mission is to "combat stereotypes, preconceptions and fears surrounding homosexuality and to create an awareness of and respect for sexual diversity."
Wolfe said she doesn't know of any students who have felt threatened because of homophobic bullying. In reference to the LGBT community, she said "people are good with accepting it, but they don't want to be associated with it."
One of the most common instances of perceived homophobia is in the use of "faggot" and "that's so gay" by students in their casual conversation, according to both Wolfe and Retief.
"I would classify that as mildly homophobic," Retief said. "It's more ignorance than hostility."
"Saying 'that's so gay' is still a negative thing. It reinforces a negative mindset about the community," Wolfe said. She added, "It's more ignorance rather than them trying to be hurtful."
According to freshman Lila Ciro, a member of GSA, people who feel something is offensive should address the problem directly. "The best way to handle it is to just talk to them," she said.
"My hope is that people will learn from everything we did right and wrong," Retief said. "It's not a kid's responsibility to prevent bullying. It's our society's responsibility to prevent bullying."


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