VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Following the publication of a so-called “gay list” of their peers by three high school students in Vancouver, one UBC professor warns the consequences could be dire.
Elizabeth Saewyc researches stigma against vulnerable youth and says the list, which labelled 100 Eric Hamber Secondary students in a derogatory homophobic slur, could put students in harms way.
“This kind of outing is not benign,” she warns, noting some may have been outed against their will. “They haven’t yet disclosed their identity to others. It may be because they don’t feel safe. So having that identity disclosed publicly may put them in danger.”
“Unfortunately, there are a number of cases that have been documented where people have been outed against their will and have died, they have taken their own lives”
And for those that may have been misidentified as gay, Saewyc says it’s hurtful to see homosexuality used as an insult or attack.
She says gay or not, the school needs to crack down on homophobic bullying.
“We need to push back against corners of our communities that still encourage the kinds of hateful speech that can then role model for young people that somehow it’s OK to do this,” she adds.
Saewyc explains the students may be modelling their behaviour on the divisive politics seen in the media.
NEWS 1130 spoke with the sister of an Eric Hamber student who posted about the list on Facebook. While she didn’t want her name on the record she confirmed the list was published in a Google Doc, with 100 names of Grade 12 students.
She remembers the title including something along the lines of “The biggest F**s at Eric Hamber.”
She added that she doesn’t believe the list authors were trying to out anyone, rather that they were using homophobic slurs to stigmatize both gay and straight students, something she says made her angry as soon as she learned about it.
Her brother, she says, is happy with the reported suspension of the three accused, while she and her mother want to see the disciplinary actions potentially include expulsions.