Moms Talk: Using "Gay" as a Negative Term

A Patch editor's observation of a long-running language trend.

Joe's Question: What do you think about using "gay" as a term to ridicule?

When I was in high school, it was commonplace to hear fellow students call things or other people "gay" when they really meant the subject was unlikable or inconvenient.

"That's so gay." 

"You're gay."

Then, I thought it was distasteful. Now I think it's offensive.

Maybe it's a generational aberration. Maybe kids growing up now, with and gay marriage given the OK in states like New York and Iowa, will not attach that negative connotation to the term when they're teens and young adults. Maybe my future kids will grow up in a time when a reference to a certain sexual orientation won't be used to criticize something as unrelated as a homework assignment or the price of a cheeseburger.

But maybe not.

The way classmates said "gay" when I was in school, and the way I still hear it today, it seems the speaker is not thinking about the term they're using. Instead, it seems to simply be a part of the young person's language. 

I want to know what the moms think.

Do you hear kids saying "gay" to ridicule? Do you talk to your kids about the term? Will it go away? Is it something to worry about?

Tell us in the comments.

Ari July 27, 2011 at 05:15 PM
It's wrong, but I don't see it as worse than any of the other usual insults - fat, ugly, stupid, etc. There aren't any "politically correct" put downs...
Joe O'Donnell July 27, 2011 at 05:25 PM
True, Ari. But "gay" is used to ridicule everyday, impersonal objects. It seems to me it's less about what or who is being called "gay" and more about the disrespect it implies to a group of people the person speaking is probably not thinking about at all. I don't hear people calling their pop quiz or the opinion of their parents "fat." (In fact, swap in a couple different letters, and that's a compliment.) So while I think you're correct, a put-down is a put-down, I think "gay" has become quite different.
Kristi Gilbert July 27, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I'm guilty of it but have been trying to curb the habit. I don't want my daughter running around saying "that's gay". I would be very embarrassed. I would also be embarrassed if she were repeat a few other choice 4-letter-words that I tend to use. Either way, as parents, we need to set an example... we need to teach our kids to be polite and respectful.
marytherese patras July 28, 2011 at 06:18 AM
Unfortunately,Hinsdale and Claredon Hills are homophobic communities.I hate to generalize,but being a nurse with many wonderful "GAY" friends....YES,gay men p make excceptional nurses,much more compassionate than most female nurses...I have to say how appauled i was to find out that many parents refused to allow their children to be taught by one of the most wonderful teachers ever to have taught in Hinsdale {this community did not deserve him.It is amazing that he lasted 20yrs. at monroe school..A DISTURBing f act ,a neighbor stated that their son would never have him as a teacher simply because he was "gay'...but when their son broke his leg he had to have this "gay' teacher because their son could not climb the stairs...they protested the school board but their was stuck with this "Gay' teacher.{what a pity} .As the saying goes "everything happens for a reason" Well ,this GAY teacher spent every lunch hour he could with the homophobics son and the GAY TEACHER assessed that their son had a learning disability....then the parents were begging for their son to stay in his class.the GAY teacher spent almost every lunch helping their son read....my 17 y..daughter says that this Gay teacher helped define who she was and he also,diagnosed a learning disabilty in my other girll... what a shame he was discriminated against by the hinsdaleans who thought they were better than him bc they he was GAY...SHAME ON U ALL FOR BEING SO JUDGEMENTAL.. MT PATRAS
Kristi Gilbert July 28, 2011 at 01:20 PM
MaryTherese- I don't think the phrase "that's gay" is specific to Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills; kids and parents all over are guilty of it. To tell an entire community "shame on all of you for being so judgemental" seems a bit hypocritical, don't you think? You can't chastise others for being judgemental, then turn around and stereotype an ENTIRE community as being homophobic. Sounds a bit "pot calling the kettle black" if you ask me. I don't consider myself a homophobe; I support gay rights and have been a long time supporter of gay marriage. There are gay people in my family. I have gay friends. And sadly, I have even said "that's gay" in front of them before. There are always going to be individuals that dislike other people for being different. That's the way of the world. To dislike someone, simply for being gay is not right (in my opinion) and I certainly don't condone that. But your point is lost on me when you wrongly accuse an entire community of being discriminatory.


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