Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I Think About: "That's So Gay"

When I taught, my classroom was filled with middle school aged children.  For some people, that raises the hair on your neck and you just audibly gagged and now you are thinking about nominating me for sainthood.  I know middle school kids aren't for everyone but I LOVE that age group.  I think it has something to do with me being incredibly awkward; I tend to fit right in.

One thing I can't stand about this group is the name-calling.  I know little kids call names.  I mean, just the other day my son called me, "Poo poo butt."  Ouch.  In middle school (and sadly, a bit younger) the names are getting meaner.  Bitch.  Slut.  Dyke.  Lesbo.

Now I'm sure all of us would give our kids a good talking to if they said one of those words.  But how many parents do you see challenging their kids not to say, "that's so gay!"?  Not many.  Right now, "gay" and "that's so gay" are terms used synonymously with "lame" and "stupid."  Regardless of what the term is a stand in for, it is a heterosexist slur--on par with calling women "bitches," the differently abled "retarded," and African Americans "the N word".

Is this harmless?  No!  According to GLSEN school atmospheres are filled with anti-gay harassment and 90% of students hear "gay" used in a derogatory manner.  So even though gay is NOT a synonym for stupid, lame, awful, ugly ... the word is used.  What then is a student who is gay supposed to think?  That s/he is stupid, awful, lame, or ugly? (Want more?  Read this article.)

"That's so gay" might sound harmless but for the student who is a sexual minority (or has a family member or friend who is) it is a hurtful phrase.  Sure it sounds "nicer" that dyke, fag, lesbo, and homo but the fact remains--you are calling a minority group stupid.  It's time to stop.

What I think is that the common phrase "that's so gay" is NOT okay.  Whenever I hear "that's so gay" I think, "that's so kid whose parents didn't love him/her enough to teach him/her to be respectful."

 I love participating in Shell's PYHO on Wednesdays!



  1. I LOVED teaching middle schoolers. My favorite age to teach, actually.

    But, oh, the name-calling is awful.

  2. I agree that it's ridiculous, the amount of name calling that goes on with kids. It's a shame. You're so right, the habit of using "gay" as a synonym for "stupid" is awful - just like using "retarded" in the same context.

    However, I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say the parents don't love the kids enough to teach them to be respectful. I was taught to be respectful of everyone and yet I picked up a lot of slang from my friends when I was growing up.

  3. Awesome. Keep up your stance, teach your kids and any who become your students in the future. It's not okay. Will it keep happening, yes. Will kids learn from their own experiences how hurtful it is, some not all. So society needs you to keep advocating. I've got retarded covered so I am happy to know that you've got gay!!!!

  4. thank you for speaking out on this, its similar to trying to teach kids to not say "that's retarded". its part of a previously acceptable vernacular. Its never been ok to use either of them, its just been common. glad you linked up!

  5. First of all I am so happy to be following your blog again! I have truly missed it. I hate to admit it, but I USED to be an offender of using retarded and gay in the not nice way. Honestly, it wasn't until Molly said something at group did Chris or I really think about what we were really saying and how hurtful, however unintentional, those words could be. We both try really hard not to say either one anymore, and if we slip up we call each other out on it. So far our girls have never heard us use those phrases, our big one that we're working on is "I'm starving". Thanks for posting this and it's good to be back!

  6. I agree - that expression has to go. You know what else I don't like? A few words I won't put in print, but... slang for female genitalia is synonymous with "weak" and slang for male genitalia is synonymous with "jerk" (or insert harsher word). Can't stand hearing those either!


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