Jamie Wareham: I used homophobic language before I came out

By Jamie Wareham
#Offended participant

image captionJamie Wareham took part in a debate as part of Newsbeat research into where young people draw the line with offence

Warning: people may find some of the words used in this report offensive

Almost half of young people (49%) think the term "that's gay" is acceptable to use.

Newsbeat asked YouGov to survey 3,000 18 to 29-year-olds about where they draw the line with offence when it comes to sexuality, race and sexism.

Sexuality is the third part of a Newsbeat investigation into what words or phrases people find offensive.

Jamie's story

"I came out when I was 15, but only after years of struggling with my sexuality. Being gay at school is not easy, even now.

"I was lucky to have a supportive family and group of friends around me, but even so I spent a long time thinking being gay was something to be ashamed of.

"Before I was out, I used homophobic language all the time.

"I thought it helped me hide my true identity. The sad truth is it didn't just push me further in the closet but others too.

"Now I'm a little more confident in my sexuality...

"My boss once asked me, 'Does this tie look gay?'

"I replied, 'Don't worry a tie can't be gay, but yes - your pink tie, it is a little camp.'

"The debate over which language is acceptable to use is as fired up as ever.

"It's one that will never end, which is probably a good thing.

"The English language should be up for debate all the time. (Unless you're Gretchen Weiner, stop trying to make "fetch" happen).

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionYes, Jamie means Gretchen Weiner (Lacey Chabert) from Mean Girls and yes it was 11 years since the film came out

"According to a Newsbeat poll 49% of young people still think its acceptable to use the phrase 'that's gay'. Are they wrong?

"You might have heard the justification, I don't mean gay as in 'gay', I mean 'that's rubbish' - not 'that's so same-sex'.

"Chances are most of the time 'that's gay' is simply slang, not homophobia. But it's still a phrase that should be challenged.

"Before I came out, I used to be terrified at the idea of being gay. At school everyone around me would say, 'that's gay', which I used to think meant 'that's bad'. What I took away from this is, 'I'm bad - because gay is bad'.

"I was lucky that after coming out, I had a supportive family and group of friends that made me realise who I was, [that it] was just fine. But what this made me realise was the power language has, even when you don't realise.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionUnion J singer Jaymi Hensley co-hosted the Newsbeat debate. He says he wants young people to feel open with their sexuality

"One contrast in the Newsbeat poll shows that one word that stands out as unacceptably offensive is 'faggot'. 75% of young people think it's unacceptable to ever use that word to describe someone. That's good news.

"The results show a promising trend that homophobic language is becoming less acceptable, but it also shows that homophobia is still prevalent in everyday language."

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