Opinion: There’s a better word than ‘gay’

Ryan Sampson

Ryan Sampson

Ryan Sampson is a senior architecture major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

My aunt has lived in Colorado for as long as I could remember, and she represents the type of personality that I expect from the state. She’s outdoorsy, loves to bike, eats naturally and locally, and has a very open mind regarding people of all faiths, beliefs and lifestyles. She has always been very accepting, so I was not surprised when she posted a video of a speaker from Colorado admonishing the incorrect use of the word “gay.”

Thanks to the National Rifle Association and the Chick-fil-A debacle this summer, I usually don’t venture into anything too political, but the video was endorsed as funny and thought-provoking, so I gave it a chance. The proper use of the word “gay” has been preached to many of us for quite a while now — I remember it becoming quite prominent in high school — but I enjoyed her point of view.

Ash Beckham, the speaker, breached the subject with a few images, one of which included words “retarded,” “nigger,” “faggot” and “cripple.” She talked about how these terms evoke an emotion or a physical reaction, and she is very correct. I hear people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and backgrounds say things such as these, and they really do make me uncomfortable, regardless of whom they come from.

I am not a homosexual, I do not a have a known mental handicap, nor am I black, but the words offend me because I have been socialized to feel this reaction — to physically reject them. This may sound juvenile, but words — and the way they are used — can hurt. As an adult, I’ve been damaged far more often by someone’s harsh words than by a physical blow.

My socially awkward sister, after meeting one of my friends for the first time, asked a little too loudly if he was “the gay one.” In fact, he is gay, but he is also a very talented designer, incredibly well-traveled and the owner of a much-coveted vintage collection. His sexual orientation is a part of him, but to me it is not his defining characteristic.

So while “gay” is a word that is indicative of a person who likes someone of the same gender or feeling happy, it is not the best description for an unwanted task or the test you failed. We as a society have lost our eloquence; there is little finesse in the way we converse. We have become too lazy to expand our vocabularies and find better ways to communicate with one another. “Hello” has been replaced with “sup?” and some of the most important questions I have ever asked have been responded to with “IDK.”

Misuse of the word “gay” isn’t necessarily hateful or a sign of bigotry, but it is a lazy way to indicate that you are displeased with something. So say, “Hello,” spell out “I don’t know,” or, even better yet, know and use a more appropriately descriptive word than gay.