At one time the word “gay” was a saving grace for young lgbtq+ members, now it appears to be a downfall. The word gay has had several different meanings throughout the years, such as lively, and cheerful, then the most common definition, which is relating to homosexuality. But now, the word seems to be undergoing a new change. A change in which gay, is synonymous with bad.
Though the word itself doesn’t mean bad, the negative connotation in which it is used implies that the word gay is bad. According to stonewall.org, 99% of Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual individuals have heard insulting phrases like, ” That’s so gay” and “You’re so gay”. These terms are typically used by young people in school settings, which makes it all the more hurtful. Though most people probably don’t intend to be offensive, these terms can be incredibly damaging to young members of the lgbtq+ community.
The casualness with which phrases like “That’s so gay”, ” You’re so gay”, and “No homo” is used was likely not intended to be hurtful to lgbtq+ members, but the negative intent behind the words themselves are clear. The use of these phrases leads to the belief that being gay is bad or viewed as a joke, to the point that Gay is now being used as a form of homophobic language.
Now you might be thinking, “Oh, you’re exaggerating. It’s just a few words. It’s not hurting anyone!” But to this, I say, wrong. Though the saying might be “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. ” Nowadays, words can cause a lot of damage. Especially to an oppressed minority like the lgbtq+ community.
Stonewall.org states that 84% of young lgbtq+ members who have heard gay used as an insult are distressed by it, and about 45% are very distressed about it. This homophobic language affects young people’s self-esteem and sense of belonging.
So now you might be asking, ” Well if it’s such a big deal, what can we do about it?” And that is an excellent question. One of the ways that stonewall.org implements to tackle homophobic bullying is a school policy. Now, this might seem like common sense, but having a no-tolerance attitude towards this behavior could make all the difference. Another way we can prevent derogatory language is teacher and staff training. Often, when teachers don’t step in to stop homophobic language it is because of a lack of training or support. If teachers were better prepared in the situation, the interaction could go a lot smoother.
Aside from school policies and teacher training, one of the most important things we can do is raise awareness and abstain from using this language ourselves. Step in when someone is using this language and don’t view it as a joke.
I have seen and heard several incidents where this homophobic language is used within our school. Though they’re not often used to intentionally insult one’s sexuality, the intent behind the use of the words doesn’t matter. When you call something gay you not only insinuate that whatever you’re insulting is bad, but that being gay is bad. So with all my heart, I hope that you are mindful of what you say, especially during these troubling times and on a sarcastic and sardonic note, I hope you find my article gay.