Gay is not a synonym for stupid

Elise Franco

“That’s so gay.”

It’s a common phrase used in everyday language by middle school, high school and college-age students. In most cases, it’s a phrase people say when they mean something is dumb or stupid.

And use isn’t limited to the straight population only. For April Templeman, co-chair of the Queer Liberation Front, use of the term was something she had to be conditioned out of.

“In high school, I used to say it all the time,” she said. “I was young, and I think it has to do with a youth’s mentality.”

Templeman, senior philosophy major, said she no longer cares for the term because she sees it as another way to marginalize members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

“The movement in the gay community is trying to make people aware of the speech that comes out of others’ mouths and make people realize that it can be offensive,” she said. “Basically the statement is saying that gay is synonymous with stupid or something else derogatory. Gay does not mean stupid.”

Kevin Casimer, president of PRIDE!Kent, said he has always had mixed feelings about the phrase.

“On the one hand, there’s a certain inherent bigotry about it that bothers me,” he said, “but at the same time, I realize the phrase is so common that when most people say it, they’re not even aware of the fact that they’re making a derogatory comment about a group of people.”

Casimer, freshman history major, said instead of getting angry or taking it personally when he overhears someone use the word “gay” to mean “stupid,” he’ll take it as an opportunity to correct them.

“I’ll just suggest that they extend their vocabulary, because merely using the word in that way is a sign of ignorance in itself,” he said.

Templeman said that before, when a friend would use the phrase around her and then immediately apologize, she would just say, “its OK,” but now she also asks them not to say it in the first place.

“It never offended me before, but I can see why it would be offensive,” she said. “So now I bring it to peoples’ attention if I hear it, ask them not to (say it) and give them reasons why.”

Kristy Chen, junior fashion design and merchandising major, said she used to use the phrase all the time until one of her best friends, who is gay, started getting angry.

“I was trying to tell (my friend) that when someone says, ‘That’s so gay,’ he shouldn’t take offense if the person is not using it in a derogative manner toward homosexuality,” she said. “I suggested, jokingly, that if people felt like it, they could say, ‘That’s so Chinese,’ when they are upset about something.”

Chen said she wanted to convince her friend that it shouldn’t be offensive unless it was directed toward him in a demeaning way, but since he is still upset by it, she makes an effort not to use the term around him.

Casimer said although he’s not really offended when people say, “That’s so gay,” not all terms associated with the LGBT community are as acceptable.

“Faggot is something I do feel strongly about,” he said. “That word is suggesting that gay people should be burned. It’s a continuation of a message of hate.”

He said it concerns him to see people who are in the media spotlight, such as Ann Coulter, use such terms, because it gives young people permission to use it too.

“They will see those people who are nationally in the news and nationally published using it and want to take it as permission to do the same,” he said.

Chen said she blames society for making it socially acceptable to use those words and phrases as a part of everyday language.

“I do think if we were able to eliminate those words it would bring our society to a higher level,” she said, “And I support that.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].