“That’s so gay.”

I admit it, I don’t know how to respond to people using the phrase, “That’s so gay.” For years now it seems that people have been using this to mean “That’s stupid” or “That’s ridiculous,” and to me it’s so freakin’ obvious that such a use came from seeing gay people as stupid or ridiculous that I can’t even see how people can say it without being aware that they’re being insulting. It’s just so glaringly mean!

My feeling offended by the phrase has been met with “Well, language evolves,” and “I don’t mean homosexual, I mean stupid.” I can’t argue with those. They’re true statements. They simply don’t get to the root of why that phrase is so very fucked up.

The fact that language evolves doesn’t excuse us from looking at the forces pushing the evolution. Most slang develops to provide a signifier that the people using it belong to the same class. Often it’s a way that non-dominant groups create power, by molding the language to their culture. It’s a way of defining against, of building a shorthand that says “This person is like me.” One of the most obvious examples is among teenagers, for whom defining themselves against their parents and their parents’ culture is of supreme importance. Building slang, changing the meanings of words, these are ways that they say “I’m not you. I’m me.” As part of a person’s development, this stage is necessary.

Another part of the evolution of language is seen in reclaiming words that were once slurs, taking the power-over away from the words and using them as power-with the group that they slurred. Gay men referring to themselves as “fags” can be an example of this (though such usage can also be derisive). Claiming the words “dyke” and “butch” as part of a self-defined identity is another example. Words that were used to hurt can be appropriated by the people attacked with them and redefined.

“That’s so gay,” isn’t a reclamation. It’s use doesn’t come from a group whose oppression was evidenced in it’s previous usage. “That’s so gay” comes from the oppression itself. Being gay or appearing gay is so derided that it becomes a synonym for stupid or ridiculous. The driving force behind this evolution in language is homophobia. By participating in this evolution of meaning, we take part in furthering institutionalized homophobia. That’s not to say people using the phrase are homophobic, but they are participating in cultural homophobia, equating “gay” with “stupid.” The meaning the individual puts into the phrase doesn’t take away from that homophobia. The intended meaning being “That’s stupid” doesn’t remove the link made between “stupid” and “homosexual.” “I didn’t mean it like that,” doesn’t remove the force behind the words used.

But I’m left wondering how to confront the usage of such a hurtful phrase. Pointing out the roots of homophobia in the words seems to result in defensiveness and walls being throw up so that communication stops. Saying “I find that phrase hurtful, please don’t use it around me,” just means that at best I’m not going to hear it, not that I’ve actually been able to communicate what’s so hurtful about the phrase. So how do I say, “I’m not calling you a homophobe, but your language is homophobic and hurtful regardless of your intent,” in a way that people will hear it and understand and not feel defensive or insulted themselves. How do I set aside my own incredulity at people not seeing the insult in their words long enough for me to lovingly explain the insult?

That’s where I’m left stumbling. I just don’t know how to do that, or if it’s worth trying when people just don’t want to hear it.

International Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Just take a look at the list of trans folks that we know about who were murdered this year. The following post is taken entirely from wordweaverlynn, who was able to say everything I wanted to and more.

Today is the tenth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we mourn those who have suffered and died for their for their gender expression. These people who were murdered are only the ones we know about.

Look at the ages: the oldest was 45. The youngest was 15.

Look at the causes of death: Shot in the head. Head battered in with a brick. Repeatedly stabbed. Stoned to death. These are not just convenience murders — a shooting to go with a robbery. These are murders of annihilation.

Being transgendered in this culture is complicated and difficult. And potentially lethal. (A transwoman is almost ten times likelier to die of murder than in a car crash. Think about that for a minute. Then go read the link.)

There is something profoundly crazy about a culture that values traditional genders so highly that people feel justified in wiping out those who don’t conform.

Remember these men and women. And do something, anything you can, to promote acceptance as equals. To stop the violence.

"Can you believe what she did?"

Lesbian kiss stirs debate in gay-friendly city

Apparently a couple was asked to stop kissing at a baseball park in Seattle “because it was making another fan uncomfortable.” Yeah, that’s fucked up. And justifications for it ranged from making out not being appropriate for anyone to do at a “family friendly” place to it forcing parents to explain to their children why two women would be kissing. OH NOES!

But the part that really gets me is this…

Since the incident, Guerrero’s job and her past have come under scrutiny. She works at a bar known for scantily clad women and was a contestant on the MTV reality show “A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila,” in which women and men compete for the affection of a bisexual Internet celebrity.

Oh well, if she’s obviously a slut anyway, then she had to have been doing something inappropriate in public. And even if she wasn’t right then, we all know she does bad things, so she needs to be punished anyway.

I really, really hate slut-shaming.


Rev. Debra Haffner writes:

I wonder what the impact would be if all of us working for sexual justice would label ourselves as “queer”.

It’s something I’ve wondered about plenty of times myself. While I’m a generally heterosexual male I’m also writing here from a pro-kink, pro-poly, pro-porn, pro-sex, feminist (and still decidedly Christian) point of view. I tell ya, I don’t feel “straight”.

But I’ve long hesitated to apply the term queer to myself, even it its modified forms of genderqueer or heteroqueer because I don’t want to pretend that I, as a generally heterosexual person, can know what my queer family really lives through. It would be presumptuous and bordering on disrespectful to put myself in the same class as them.

So then how do folks like me describe ourselves in shorthand? I mean, I’ve got those bullet points down the right hand side of the blog, but those are kinda hard to work into conversation, much less fit on a bumper sticker.