When I was in fifth grade, my school put on a play called Sky Happy. It was a musical written specifically to commemorate Vancouver’s 100th year in existence. I was not into it, so I complained to what I assumed would be a sympathetic ear.
“Daaaad,” I whined to my father, “I have to make a puppet that sings! That’s so gay.” Instantly he sat up straight and got serious. “Ellen,” he said. “Do you know what that means?”
“Yes,” I said exasperated. “It doesn’t mean that. It just means it’s stupid.”
Well, according to my dad it did mean that and the way I was talking made it sound like the play wasn’t the only thing I thought was stupid.
One miserable lecture later, I felt humiliated and pretty pissed at my dad. But I also felt weird about saying, "That’s so gay." Though I didn’t tell my dad, I took it out of my vocabulary.
I can’t say that all the kids I know have taken the same action. I hear words like "gay" and "homo" casually tossed around disparagingly by people who would never use the color of one’s skin or a person’s religion as an insult. So what gives? How is it still acceptable to equate being gay with something stupid, uncool or embarrassing?
Obviously, not everyone uses this phrase. But the fact that I encounter it so often, and by such diverse groups of kids, just reminds me that a lot of people are casually homophobic and don’t fully acknowledge the impact of their language.
Not everyone has a dad who will call them out. But, the more of us that take on the call out role, the less we’ll hear "That’s so gay" used as a put down.
Out of curiosity, what do you think about saying, “That’s so gay?” Do you say it? Do people you know?