No one puts Kurt in the corner

A graduate student blog hardly seems the place for reflections on bullying, as its generally considered a primary and secondary school phenomenon. But this week’s episode of Glee has got me thinking. Kurt, the only openly gay character at fictional McKinley High School is pushed around violently throughout the episode by a jock who is secretly gay himself. A number of high profile suicides in the USA by gay teens have brought the issue of bullying to the fore, culminating in this moving clip by Fort Worth City councillor Joel Burns:

An before we stick our noses in the air and start assuming things are so much better here in Canada allow me to add that ignorance is not an American phenomenon. My 14-year old brothers can barely speak a sentence without a liberal peppering of the word “faggot” that might seem shocking to those who don’t spend enough quality time with pre-teens.

Why should we care? Because in many cases we are teachers and teachers-in-training and what we chose to say and what we chose to accept as normal in our classrooms and outside of them sets a precedent for what is “normal” for our students.

As grad students dedicated to decolonizing Canada we are committed to pushing boundaries in our own scholarship, whether denouncing racism, sexism, homophobia, or injustices surrounding First Nations’ rights. In many ways we believe that avoiding all that is “PC” is an effective way of deconstructing the norms we so often deride. We try to offend, hoping our words might make people recognize certain prejudices in their own beliefs.

But the line between meaningful satire and unkindness is a thin one. I remember my high school creative writing teacher, talking to us about satire, insisting that the object of ridicule must remain clear in our minds and our writing. It must also remain clear so we know what we are willing to accept from our siblings, our students and ourselves.