That’s so gay! You’re so gay! My phone is so gay! What does the word gay even mean anymore? It was once the term happy. More commonly it’s used to describe sexuality. However more recently it’s used to describe something broken, annoying or stupid. The Oxford dictionary describes its meaning as foolish, stupid or unimpressive. So how has a completely innocent word been turned into an insult?
99% of gay young people hear the phrases ‘That’s so gay’ or ‘You’re so gay’ and with 96% hearing words such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza’. Primary school children are even using the word gay as an insult. That’s children as young as 4! When I was that age I can’t remember hearing the word gay at all. I was all too busy learning nursery rhymes and the alphabet rather than repeating words parrot fashion. This is why we need to watch what we are saying. But surely something’s being done to combat this in schools? Shockingly only half of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils report their schools saying homophobic bullying is wrong. That number is shockingly lower at 37 per cent in faith schools. Why aren’t schools tackling it? Why are we letting people use gay as a derogatory term? If people started saying ‘That’s so disabled’ or ‘That’s so black’ would we accept that too? I know and you know that it wouldn’t be tolerated. So what’s the difference with using the word gay? The answer is there isn’t one.
There are so many other words that people can use instead of gay such as – ‘That’s so foolish’ ,‘You’re so ridiculous’ or ‘My phone is so annoying’. The list goes on. People need to realise and understand the effects of their language. The person they are saying these phrases to could well be gay, and who knows what effect it may have on them. Just like everyone, I know that some people are fine with these terms, however if we just let them go because ‘some people’ are happy then that leaves the rest incredibly unhappy- something which cannot be tolerated. We have the power to act on these things and create a change.
Research shows that 56 percent of gay young people deliberately self-harm. Every 18 minutes 1 person dies from suicide and around 1/3 of those are as a result of being bullied about their sexuality or gender identity. So the next time you say the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ you may have just pushed that person over the edge. If people could see what they are saying, the effect it’s having, and even experience first-hand some of the effects then I know that they wouldn’t like it and I hope to think they would change. Although it shouldn’t take experiencing things first hand to change, I know sadly a lot of the time it does.
Although a word may mean nothing to one person, it may well mean a lot more to another. Something we all need to remember is that language hurts and ‘gay’ is definitely not just a word.
By Michaella Philpot