U of A researchers chart casual homophobia online

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‘Faggot,’ ‘dyke,’ ‘no homo’ and ‘so gay’ are four slurs that have been used over 15 million times on Twitter since July 5, 2012. is a website that was launched by researchers at the University of Alberta that charts homophobic language in the English-speaking world.

U of A education assistant professor and associate director of the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services Kristopher Wells, who was behind the inception of, said the website was created to give numbers to the staggering amount of homophobic language in social settings.

The site has received worldwide attention, reaching about two million page views since it launched in September 2012.

Wells said Twitter is a perfect platform to gather this data due to the increasing popularity of social media sites.

“We decided to do a public awareness campaign around casual homophobia in the public setting and that’s how the site was born,” said Wells. “We want to capture a global consciousness around this issue and be able to talk about it in a new way by actually quantifying the information.”

Wells has been researching gender minorities in public schools through ISMSS, which is a unique research group in Canada that develops educational strategies to promote gender inclusivity. He said that the use of homophobic language is still extremely common in our society.

“We have seen over time that our society has evolved,” said Wells, speaking about the decrease of sexist and racist language in general. “We are saying the same thing about homophobic language, it is the most commonly heard derogatory language used today but the least responded to.” filters the four phrases in real time as people tweet them. It also displays the complete tweets themselves.

“These are real people and these are real tweets,” said Wells.

According to, ‘faggot’ was tweeted 45,670 times, ‘no homo’ was tweeted 12,103 times, ‘so gay’ was tweeted 10,803 times and ‘dyke’ was tweeted 4,083 times on March 5, 2013.

“What is very surprising is how fast the numbers rise,” said Wells. “I think what we have been able to do with this website is quantify the gravity of the problem.”

He said that homophobic language is still used casually because people may not realize how harmful it can be.

“Most of the people tweeting these remarks may not be homophobic, but are still using this derogatory language without thinking about the consequences,” said Wells. “This kind of language is not benign, it’s not harmless — it has real effects. It can lead to dehumanization and in tragic cases it can lead to hate crimes, bullying and suicide because victims don’t feel valued for who they are.” has created a public service announcement that has been broadcasted nationally and can be found on YouTube. It censors sexist and racist insults but ends with “gay faggot” that is uncensored, aiming to show that homophobic language is also unacceptable. The video has been receiving much attention. Wells hopes that an increased discussion about casual homophobia can be sparked.

“We want people to think before they speak and think before they tweet. Use your words and say what you mean. Don’t say ‘that’s so gay’ as a shorthand for stupid or idiotic, because that is someone’s identity, and imagine if you have never heard anything positive about your identity.”

At this time, the site does not look at the context in which the language is used. Wells hopes to expand the research to learn more about how homophobia manifests in the public sphere and online to increase educational efforts to fight homophobia.

“Education is one of the best ways to lead to social change,” said Wells.