Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

What if “that” isn’t “so gay”?

I fully expect the “stop being so politically correct” comments to come pouring in for this, but I’ve always been bothered by the phrase That’s so gay.

I’ve heard it from even my most liberal friends—friends who fully embrace equal rights for gays and lesbians. It is part of our culture. I even said it myself for a number of years. Its offensiveness is only tangential, but it is still existent… existent enough that I find ways to avoid it (and still feel good about being able to express myself—don’t worry!). After all, That’s so gay really just means That’s so stupid or That’s so undesirable to do. Whereas the word gay used to be associated with happiness, it is now in everyday speech associated with the undesirable, the stupid, and the uncool. In the end, people who use the phrase are probably not likely to start yelling faggot! and dyke! or to start beating up gay people for being gay, but I just don’t see why we need to create (reinforce?) negative associations with the word gay. If you mean That’s so stupid or I don’t want to do that, then say “That’s so stupid” or “I don’t want to do that.” It’s completely unnecessary to say “That’s so gay.”

This is an entirely different phenomenon from the association of black with bad or yellow with cowardly. There simply exists no other simple word for the black market other than the black market, no other word for blackmail than blackmail. The only thing that seems artificial in the English language’s use of the word black is in application to skin color. All the supposedly “black” people I’ve met are various shades of tan or brown. I’m supposedly “yellow” for being Asian, and I’ve often heard people refer to Asians as “olive-colored,” but for the life of me I don’t see how my skin tone is either tint. Since Malcolm X took it for granted that what he then called Negroes (as was the popular label of the time) were, in fact, “black,” he took offense to the association of the word black with that which is negative. I view it as quite the other way around—it was probably already part of the English language to associate black with the negative and then a logical extension for racists to then attach the “black” label to overall darker-skinned individuals. The fact is that even white people are not white (with the exception of albinos), and that in the United States it was court decisions that had to decide whether or not Arab-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Filipino-Americans qualified as “white”—ultimately deciding the societal worth (and not really the race) of those individuals.

What we’re seeing now with the word gay is the opposite. It is now firmly entrenched in popular usage to have gay mean “attracted to the same sex” with only a vestigial connotation of happiness. There’s absolutely no reason to start or continue to associate it with the generally negative (the stupid, the undesirable).

The worst part about the phrase That’s so gay is, however, not its pervasiveness so much as its subtlety. Unlike blatant slurs like faggot, That’s so gay is very difficult to counter without appearing oversensitive or “politically correct,” and the explanation of why it might be harmful is quite lengthy (see how long I’ve been writing about it so far?), so most people just let it go.

I just hope the day doesn’t come that people start saying That’s so Asian to describe that which is undesirable.

Further reading
That’s so gay!
That’s So Gay!
‘That’s so gay’ prompts a lawsuit
What is the lamest reason for giving up on Ubuntu/Linux you’ve ever heard?

Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Letters from reputable publications

I don’t know where these are from, but I clipped them a long time ago, and I think they’re just as insightful now as they were then, even if Netanyahu isn’t the leader of Israel any more.

Criticism of Netanyahu is not anti-Semitic
As an American Jew, I take profound offense at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt (“Netanyahu asks to be understood,” Page 1, Oct.9) to link criticism of his government’s brutal and self-aggrandizing policy toward the Palestinians to historic “incitement of falsehoods depicting Jews as the enemy of mankind . . . poisoners of the well.” To be sure, anti-Semitism continues to exist in the world; in Europe, if not in America, it is clearly growing stronger. That in no way justifies Israel’s reneging on signed peace accords, blowing up Palestinian houses or killing demonstrating children.

That a government guilty of such offenses is condemned by public opinion throughout the world need not reflect anti-Semitism. More plausibly, it reflects a simple sense of justice. At best, Netanyahu speaks for only half of Israeli Jews. The future of Israel, and the struggle against anti-Semitism, would be served by forthright condemnation of policies which cannot be decently defended.

Leon Kamin

Are Gay Men Born that Way?
Even if homosexuality is determined to have a physiological origin [Science, Sept.9], why should homosexual practices be any more accepted than alcoholism, drug dependency, eating disorders or any of a host of other aberrant manifestations that may also be rooted in physiology? All of these practices, including homosexuality, should be handled the same way: with respect for the humanity of the individual and with treatment for and discouragement of the behavior.

Genevieve Cochran
Medford, Oregon

So what if gay men are born that way? A straight society will still discriminate against them, just as a white society discriminates against nonwhites. Gay men may have small hypothalamic nuclei. That’s not the problem. Too many straight people have small hearts. That’s the problem.

Steve Swayne
Oakland, California

I see no benefit in knowing the reason for sexual orientation. Is the implication that if there is no physiological cause, gay people do not deserve legal protection? Whether people choose to be gay or are physiologically gay is a moot point politically. People who practice religion choose to do so, and yet no one would deny them political and legal protection.

Thomas Foster
Oda, Japan