How many times have you overheard kids say “so gay” about something as arbitrary as an annoying mobile ringtone? Or what about a bunch of drunk blokes at the pub calling their mate “faggot” for opting out of a round of beers.

I’ve heard this stuff so many times I barely even take notice. It’s not that I’m cool with, I’m just used to it. Homophobic slurs are chucked around so casually even homos can be deaf to the harm they cause.

This is why folks at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at Canada’s University of Alberta have launched The website shows the prevalence of casual homophobia in today’s society by tallying the number of homophobic remarks posted on Twitter in real time.

At 9pm on Sunday the F-word had been tweeted nearly 25,000 times that day alone. Last week it received 214,000 runs and since the site began on July 5 it’s been mentioned 2.8 million times. For a word that so many of us find offensive, it sure is popular.

In addition to the tally, the site pulls in actual tweets containing key homophobic words. Stuff like:

Tough guy @DaddaPig7 brags, “George was crying so I knocked that little faggot out”, @kaithubbard, clearly unable to take a compliment, tweets “Knocked a girl out for calling me a dyke #winning”; and @cheens09 fails at self-deprecation with one stupid hashtag, “I’m as sober as a Catholic nun teaching a Sunday school class right now #sogay”.

I was so morbidly fascinated by the rapid-fire stream of gay-bashing, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

Sure, some tweets weren’t aggressively homophobic – and it seemed like a few “dyke” and “fag” comments were posted by queers who’d reclaimed the words – but the vast majority came from a pretty ugly place.

Once upon a time people got away with calling folks like Muhammad Ali the N-word in everyday speech – we now know better. Why should homophobic terms be any different? Or why should disparaging names for trans peeps be ok just ‘cos they’ve been “affectionately” used forever?

There are only around 500 million of the world’s 7 billion people on Twitter – so if we’re seeing anti-gay language go down on social media, you know there’s far worse shit being said offline. Perhaps it’s time we stopped being so casual about casual homophobia, and started being more careful with our own choice of words.

INFO: You can follow Monique Schafter on Twitter @MoniqueSchafter

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