Warning: A rant is about to ensue.
It's nothing new. I imagine people have been tossing "joking" insults at their friends since the dawn of time, and especially boys. You've probably heard the type:
"Joe, you're such a girl." (Having two X chromosomes is an insult?)
"Hey, Larry likes guys." (Besides it being untrue, what's your point?)
"You're so gay, Jeff." ("Gay" as a vague catch-all synonym for stupid, clumsy, goofy, or whatever would actually fit the situation? ... Must not kill the children with my laser-eyes.)
That's when it's tame, and I'll let your imagination fill in when it's not. I'm sure there's some psychological/sociological explanation about male posturing, establishing dominance, or some other testosterone-fuelled phenomenon.
It drives me nuts.
What can I do about it? Probably not much. I try to take the extra moment for a stern "None of that in my classroom," but it's always met by the same thing:
"I'm just playing. Joe and I are buds. He knows I'm kidding."
The kidding aspect of it doesn't make it okay. I try to get that across (and get the class back on track with math, please-oh-please). It's very trying-to-empty-the-ocean-with-an-eyedropper. When I briefly mentioned it on Twitter the other day, I added the hashtag #CallMeSisyphus.
Super frustrating. I'm not stopping anytime soon, though.
Here's one reason why, aside from the fact that such "insults" are offensive, annoying, and unintelligent.
I know a guy, former student, now an adult, who's come out. I imagine him sitting in my classroom years ago. I imagine those stupid comments getting tossed around every single day. Back then, I was a new teacher who barely knew how to keep thirty teenagers from killing each other for forty-five minutes, much less having her ears tuned in to the random banter. So, I really don't know if it's gotten worse, or if I was just too stressed about not knowing what the heck I was doing to notice.
But even assuming such comments weren't lobbed at him directly (best-case scenario), I imagine how hearing it over and over made him feel.
Possibly he would have felt a little like I do when I hear that first type of insult: "You're such a girl," etc. Kind of like I feel when someone tells a guy they throw like a girl, and I want to respond with, "Yeah? Let me show you how to kick like a girl."
The feeling is that even if it's in so-called teasing, it holds an inherent assumption that being female or being gay or whatever is automatically inferior. Not worthy of respect.
Never mind that we're human beings. All of us.
And I know I've said it before, but I don't like this "looking-down" attitude on any front. Not Republicans talking trash about Democrats. Not atheists saying the religiously inclined are idiots.
You don't have to agree with someone to show them respect. And it's really not that hard.
Now, if only I could convince a few fourteen-to-fifteen-year-olds of that.