Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"That's So Gay"

Okay, I realize I'm late arriving to this party.  After all, other writers (in blog posts, articles, what-have-you) wrote some months ago about how offensive the line "That's so gay" is.  But I didn't get it.  Either I didn't pay attention, I wasn't present in the moment, or I wasn't in the right frame of mind.  Who knows?

But I was a couple of nights ago, as I watered the garden in our front yard, feeling more sensitive and vulnerable than usual, perhaps.  With Chris away in the Interior of B.C. now a week, and me home alone, I was a little sad and--okay, I'll admit it--feeling sorry for myself.

The garden in my head was a little wetter and more fertile than usual as I watched three boys walk by on the sidewalk, all about fifteen or sixteen years old.  I didn't catch everything they said, but, obviously, someone they knew had done something really stupid.  Whereupon, one of the boys, glancing at me, said, "That's so gay.  Who would do that?," as though he were saying it to me.  

Ding.  I got it.  I finally got it.  And I wasn't so much offended as I was disheartened--that the word gay now means stupid or idiotic.  Where I'd heard that expression before and didn't think much of it, the four words that followed opened my eyes wide, brought it more clearly into focus, and showed me how unacceptable its use is, especially among those who have no clue what they're saying.

It got me thinking, too.  What if we tossed around other words in the same way as gay? As long as we're using words to label people, what if we substituted gay for something else?  For example, "That's so teenaged boys.  Who would do that?"  Do you think had the three teenaged boys heard me say that, they would have gotten it?  No, you're right.  Probably not.

There's no end to the other words we could use, you know.  Let's have fun with this.  What about:

1.  "That's so middle-aged female.  Who would do that?"
2.  "That's so African American.  Who would do that?"
3.  "That's so Asian.  Who would do that?"
4.  "That's so white businessman.  Who would do that?"
5.  "That's so Jewish.  Who would do that?"

I could go on, but I won't.  You get the idea.  

By now, I'm sure I've insulted any number of middle-aged women, African Americans, Asian people, Caucasian businessmen, and Jewish people with my examples.  But isn't that the point? How can using the sentence "That's so gay" be any less offensive or insulting to those who are gay or lesbian?  It can't.

So how do we stop its use when it's meaning is something so negative and derogatory--something none of us, straight or gay, wants to be?                  


  1. Dead-on, my friend. I DESPISE when someone refers to something silly or stupid as "gay". Really?!? C'mon, people!! I likewise despise when someone refers to something silly or stupid as "retarded".

    Ugh... there is such ignorance in our world. And yet honestly, I believe that nine times out of ten when someones means "stupid" or "ridiculous" and uses "gay" -- that they are only repeating what they've heard (as opposed to having given actual thought to what they're saying).

    However, ignorance is no excuse.

    I believe education is the key.

    Indulge me while I hammer the point home here... I believe you and Chris are "so gay", Rick. And by that, I unapologetically mean: irrevocably happy, inexcusably smitten, wholly committed, head-over-heels for one another!!!

    My hope for your homecoming on Thursday is that it will be filled to the brim with love-n-hugs-and-all-kinds-of-mushy-foreverness.

    With sincere love and fondness,

  2. I agree, Donna. When people use the expression "That's so gay," I believe they have no awareness of what they're saying, or how some people might be upset, insulted, or offended. Awareness is everything.

    Your use of the word gay as it relates to Chris and me is interesting. Some time ago, I wrote a post about how I didn't like the term, because it took a perfectly good word, meaning "lighthearted and carefree," and turned it into something that, to me anyway, didn't fit gay people (or the gay people I knew), who, as the series on your blog pointed out, were anything but.

    Since then, I've warmed up to it because I've had no choice, and because it continues to be used as an easily-identifiable label of a group of people. But I still think it has a negative connotation in the minds of many, and, as a result, it's still politically charged. (I didn't mean to get this heavy on you.)

    I guess what I'm getting at is the word gay has a lot going on, and it has even more now, since, in the case of the expression "That's so gay," it's been adopted to describe anyone who is silly or stupid. Fortunately, the "Oxford American Dictionary" hasn't yet added that definition. Can it only be a matter of time? (How can you tell I have a love/hate relationship with the word?)

    Thanks for your kind words about Chris's safe return home tomorrow (Thursday). I can't wait to see him again, even though it's only been a little over a week since we were last together.

    And thanks for your comment and sentiments. I really appreciate them.