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“That’s gay” revisited

June 14, 2010

I semi-accidentally made a friend very self-conscious the other day, but it turns out I managed to drive my point home quite well. I was with my coworker, K, and her boyfriend ,W, playing a game that can be frustrating. Something irritated W to the point he uttered the famous phrase, “That’s gay.”

I’ve made my feelings on that phrase known in the past, but I don’t think either K or W had ever heard me complain about the way it equates gay men and lesbians with everything negative or just how much it irritates me. (Remember, they even mounted a public awareness campaign about it.) Hearing a friend say something offensive always put you in an awkward position, because even when you’re offended it’s natural to not want to create a scene, and that generally isn’t very productive. And the situation that night was a bit more awkward for me because I was at their apartment — not the best place to correct someone.

The solution I’ve found for these situations is to just say simply, “No, I’m gay.” It’s a response that you can say humorously and still use to drive the point home to anyone who’s paying attention, and it gives your interlocutor the courtesy of not having to respond if she or he doesn’t want to.

Even though W is a smart guy, I wasn’t entirely sure he had noticed what I said until the next time I was over, with a few other people. K and W actually both brought it up, and W said he felt like a terrible person after my comment! I wasn’t sure whether to feel guilty or vindicated, but what I experienced was probably a mixture of both.

I wanted him to understand my point of view, and while I didn’t want to make him feel bad, I did want him to experience the same discomfort I had. The eventual conversation became part of a larger discussion on what is and isn’t appropriate to say, and as they spoke about their struggle to ignore what they hear around them and say the right thing I felt less like a watchdog.

I don’t hold W any ill will — people make mistakes, and I have no desire to be the language police. I appreciate his willingness to admit he was in the wrong, and I’m glad people can hear me out on this topic without clamming up.

Two other notes in other blog-related business. First, on the right of this page I’ve added a feed to my Twitter account. I try to keep all of my posts substantive, but Twitter is a good place to post quick links to relevant and interesting articles. Second, as my followers on Twitter have already seen,the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists named this site the top independent blog of 2009. My thanks to the NJSPJ for recognizing me!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz from Cushing permalink
    June 15, 2010 6:40 am

    Hey Geoff– I absolutely love following your blog. Thank you for writing! Any thoughts about a good response to “that’s gay,” for those of us who are allies?

  2. June 15, 2010 9:11 am

    Love your response ‘No I’m Gay’, great way to diffuse the situation. I have faced similar situation, and sometimes in business setting. We should not turn a blind eye to these times, instead collectively stop this misuse of the word gay.

  3. June 15, 2010 11:04 am

    Hey Liz! So glad you read and enjoy it! I expect it’s a bit tougher for allies just because, in a way, you’re one degree removed from the situation. If you and whoever used a pejorative “gay” both have a gay or lesbian friend in common (like me!), you could always say, “No, Geoff’s gay!” and have much the same effect. If there’s no one in common, I guess the best thing to do might be to say, “No, that’s not, but I have plenty of friends who are.”

    It’s a tricky dance to not put people on the defensive, but if anyone can do it, you can!

  4. June 22, 2010 5:40 am

    Geoff, congrats again on your award!

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