Hits and Misses: Readers Respond to Recent Columns

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(The Vancouver Sun, June 11, 2001)

This week’s column is dedicated to our readers who have provided us with feedback regarding some of our recent articles:

Re: Education Banishes Pornography, May 21, 2001

One reader expressed concern that we made the assumption that the pornography found by a disturbed mother of a teenage boy was heterosexual and that the material in question was dehumanizing and degrading toward women. Although it was not clear in the published question due to space limitations (and our decision not to promote the magazines), the parent specified the types and names of the magazines collected. Another reader insisted that this type of dehumanizing and violent literature would have been censored before distribution and would therefore have been unavailable to the public. The magazines referred to are readily available at local convenience stores, and, in our opinion, contain incredibly dehumanizing images.

Re: How to Talk the Talk: What words really mean, May 28, 2001

Despite overwhelmingly positive feedback, there has been some concern that the publishing of certain words in our dictionary for parents on teen slang might reinforce the usage of them. Specific examples include:

Player (n.) a promiscuous male who "gets" lots of girls. John is a real player.

Ho (n). a promiscuous female, sometimes referred to as "skank". That Anneka is a real skanky ho.

Our intention was not at all to encourage teens to use these words. Since the majority of our readers are parents, the purpose of this dictionary was to inform adults of the meanings of the words their teens may be using. Knowledge is power, and only if parents understand the sometimes derogatory language of teens can they take issue with it. In our opinion, some of these words are derogatory to both males and females, not to mention the double standard they demonstrate. Several parents and teachers have also expressed an appreciation for "enlightening" them. Many said they had heard their teens use these words but weren’t sure what they meant.

Re: Dos and Don’ts for Parents of A Gay Teen

Due to the prevalence of homophobia, the reviews of this column have been, shall we say, mixed. Comments ranged from ridiculous (homosexuality can be "fixed", that it is reflective of a stunt in psychological growth, and that it is a lifestyle choice), to inspirational (gay teens and adults themselves expressing their relief and appreciation for published material that reflected "so accurately the experience of coming out and the need for support"). It was felt that we should include advice for parents to inform their teens about the health risks that homosexuality in particular presents. We prefer to encourage parents to inform their teens about the health risks of ALL sexual behaviors, which are unrelated to sexual orientation. Based on statistics, heterosexual women should be most aware, since they are the fastest growing HIV positive population.

We also received a comment regarding our choice of resources published, specifically, that these organizations promote the homosexual lifestyle and give little choice in counseling alternatives. John Truman, Executive Director of Youthquest! (Lesbian and Gay Youth Society of B.C.), states that the society’s philosophy centers around providing a service that "connects youth to positive peer relationships, offers a listening ear, and makes referrals to community resources. It’s mission is to empower youth to make their own decisions regarding the nature of support they need."

Thank you to our readers who have provided us with this valuable feedback. Please keep it coming!