By Victor Porcelli
Just as American society has developed to condemn violent acts based on gender or race, it has developed to do so concerning issues of sexuality. Of course, this is not always true. However, work still needs to be done to make it so, but in a general sense it can be accepted as a statement.
What it leaves out is any act against an individual or group based on gender, race or sexuality that is not outright violent or vulgar; inappropriate comments, unfounded assumptions and favoritism. Bigotry based on the above criteria, still exist and are not always as readily confronted as their brethrens.
When specifically talking about issues of sexuality, these acts manifest in many ways. Whether assuming a gay man is less masculine, calling transgender people by their sex rather than gender or using the term “gay” as a replacement for stupid. Minor transgressions against a person occur in everyday life.
Focusing specifically on the latter example, the term “gay” as it pertains to homosexual individuals has become a replacement for “stupid.” Already some readers may be groaning at this “gay” article. However, discourse is the first step towards understanding. So consider reading on, if not for the sake of understanding, then for the sake of being able to prove you are justified.
One common argument against those who advocate the use of the word “gay” when referring to that which one considers dumb or stupid, is the simple dismissal of the occurrence as insignificant. The question is who decides what is significant.
Sexual harassment is defined as “any unwanted sexual attention,” and similarly something like the misuse of the word gay is significant if it makes someone uncomfortable, scared, sad, etc. For there is only a problem if a victim exists, and if a victim exists, there is a problem. This is where people like to claim that such a definition will lead to countless unreasonable reactions to reasonable situations. That they are going to be innocently singing “Deck the Halls” and be persecuted when they sing the line that includes “gay apparel.” Such an argument is a logical fallacy, an appeal to extremes. In general, people will only claim to be offended if they truly are offended for some reason. No one wants to be a victim.
Some may say these “victims” should not be offended. Nevertheless, to argue that one should not feel a certain way, is unfair. People cannot help how they feel. As a member of society, one should avoid hurting others. Feelings can be strong and detrimental to one’s mental and physical health. The feeling of being excluded, of being alone, of being abnormal and of being lesser are some of such feelings.
These feelings can be directly caused by something as insensitive as using the word “gay” as an insult. Using the word in this way contributes to a culture that is homophobic by attaching a negative connotation to being homosexual. Imagine being gay, already struggling with the idea of being “different” from others, and hearing friends displaying clear disdain for anyone like you.
People who do use the word “gay” in such a way is not indefinitely homophobic, but they are contributing to a cultures that are.
So, say “it’s not a big deal,” and is just something said sometimes, not intended to harm. The fact remains it can and will cause harm to people. So why continue to use a word in an incorrect way, that can make someone uncomfortable and contributes to a homophobic culture?
Perhaps it is a habit, but if so, it is a bad one. Like all bad habits it should be confronted when seen in oneself, one’s friends and anywhere else.
Using “gay” when meaning “stupid,” is something that seems cool or easy, but it can cause harm to people. So if you catch a family member, friend or yourself partaking in such a habit, encourage people to quit and use their words correctly. This is a small request to do a small thing, but whether or not it is taken seriously can have a big effect.