I am dismayed by the pejorative use of the word "gay". I think colleges should pay more attention to this prejudice - in the same way they tackle racism. If pupils used a word such as "nigger" it would not be tolerated.
Much of the use of the word "gay" is fairly light, but it does suggest that to be gay is to be uncool, bad, evil, stupid and so on. As a gay teacher, I hear this all the time and have tried to set the record straight. Stephen Lawrence was not gay, but the man who was beaten to death on the south bank of the Thames recently was. Both were victims of blind and stupid prejudice born of a pernicious differentiation which, historically, has begun with words.
I think the question "Am I gay?" is on more people's minds than when I was a teenager. Then, homosexuality was culturally isolated and rarely mentioned. Sex (of whatever kind) is now all over the media. Openly gay celebrities are seen regularly and are apparently accepted. It is not surprising that this terminology has developed mostly out of fear and doubt - two common components of growing up.
As you say, it is mostly fairly benign, but I would agree that much more could be done to stamp out prejudice of all kinds. This needs to be clearly stated in college rules and supported by staff. In the same way that black appointments to high positions in colleges affirm equal opportunities for ethnic minorities, a similar approach might also help to foster a change in attitude towards homosexuality.
Dilemmas should be emailed to Donald Short at firstname.lastname@example.org