The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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This article is so gay

“That’s so gay.” It seems to echo through the halls of every educational institution across America housing students above the age of 12. Most people claim that the words just roll off the tongue without any real anti-homosexual sentiment behind it. ‘Gay’ is a word that has become synonymous with many negative adjectives such as stupid, unnecessary, maddening, ridiculous, silly and countless others.

When your teacher grades your term paper too harshly – that’s gay! Someone looks at you the wrong way – that’s gay! Your Coke doesn’t dispense out of the vending machine – (oh yes, I’ve heard it!) that’s gay! Virtually all irritating, pestilent or otherwise negative situations are commonly referred to as gay.

Why? It is because we are homophobic as a generation? I don’t recall my parents ever saying that something was gay. Neither have I ever heard any mature adult use the term this way. The only time I’ve heard them say the word was when stating that someone was, in fact, homosexual.

It seems to tie in with the trend of losing specific vocabulary that identifies unique emotions that we as humans share. Why don’t I hear, “Her nonchalant demeanor really perturbs me”? We just dumb it down to, “She’s acting so gay today!”

Is using gay this way a problem? Yes, for two reasons.

We are losing an important part of our humanity: the freedom of expression. The ability to articulate our ideas, thoughts, emotions and tell stories seems to be eroding. When I asked why a friend of mine was not at an outing, I was simply told, “Oh, she’s not coming. She’s being gay.” What does that mean? What was my friend trying to convey to me? Certainly she is not a lesbian this evening. So, she’s being stupid? Well, what does that mean? Is she busy, going out with someone else, spending time with her boyfriend, going through a rough time? What?! Sorry, but describing someone as being gay does not suffice and it’s offensive, which leads me to my next point.

We should refrain from using the word ‘gay’ because it is offensive and distasteful. It is not OK to use language that alienates or demeans any group based on race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, ethnic group, etc. Obviously, the word gay is used in situations that have nothing, even remotely, to do with gay people. However, it is still not OK to use the word that way, because negatively associating words that categorize people furthers their alienation from mainstream society.

Some people in the GLBT community are OK with the now common usage of ‘gay,’ others would say it is OK only when gay people say it, but debatably the largest portion of the GLBT community would rather it not be used in those terms at all. Similarly, we see this with other minority groups like African-Americans and the use of the “N word.” The word is hateful and has a long history of violent discrimination behind it. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word gay means: 1. Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex, 2. Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry, 3. Bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room, 4. Given to social pleasures, 5. Dissolute; licentious.

Nowhere above does the word gay signify stupid. It is squarely wrong for us to allow the word gay to become a synonym for all things negative, which seems to be the trend for young people. The GLBT community is still fighting for its rights in this country and around the world. It is grossly offensive to change the meaning of a word that defines a group of people to something that embodies negativity and societal rejection. By saying something is gay because it’s bad, you are equating gay with being wrong.

Having trouble understanding? Try this: Put yourself in a gay person’s shoes. Let’s say you are an American living abroad. You are, no doubt, the minority. Now, let’s say people are generally friendly toward Americans. However, you do get weird looks from locals. Occasionally you hear of people being denied jobs, getting beat up and sometimes killed because they are American. Oh, and did I mention – you can’t get married and in your area it’s nearly impossible to adopt children. On top of all of that, the word “American” means wrong, bad or stupid.

That sounds like a hard society to live in. It is. I know. When we don’t seem to be affected negatively by something, we tend to just let it go. We take the “it’s not that important” notion. Well, it is important! Discrimination takes many forms, and this is one of them.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Use the appropriate word and think twice before you call something or someone ‘gay.’

Brent Lemons is a junior international relations and political science major. He can be reached for comment at blemons@smu.

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