Mary Elizabeth Williams asks over on Salon whether it’s ever okay to call something gay. You know, like that movie was “so gay” or that car is “so gay.” Her conclusion? Nah. For the most part, don’t use it.
She’s got some sort-of exceptions, which are not nuanced, so don’t act like it’s complicated and everyone’s trampling on your rights and freedom of speech. There are ways to call something ugly or weak or unflattering or awkward without calling that thing “gay.” Gay, for decades now, means gay. These days (finally!), that’s not a bad thing.
Your kids need to know this, too. (National Coming Out Day seems like a fine time to talk about it.) There are plenty of other words kids can work into their vocabularies in order to degrade movies, games, toys and their peers.
Parents can talk about some alternatives, especially if your kid is a heavy user of “gay” and it’s nominal counterpart “fag” and “dyke.” Words like boring, stupid, inane, implausible, ridiculously easy, an insult to my intelligence!, jerk, passive-aggressive jerk, know-it-all and simpering fool come immediately to mind. Also? Asinine, because it sounds a little dirty. But I’m sure you have your own personal favorites.
I, personally, swear like a sailor, and I also have a pretty robust vocabulary. I’ve never believed that the two are mutually exclusive. But not since my own misinformed youth have I used “gay” to degrade something or someone. (I cringe just thinking about it.) And my kids couldn’t imagine using “gay” as a way of expressing something negative.
Also on the no-fly list? Retarded/retard. Anything racist. And I’ve begun to wonder about the word “lame” (would love your thoughts on that).
And pity the NFL fan within my earshot who talks about a defensive line in “skirts” — 5-minute mandatory lecture in front of the big screen on how there isn’t anything inherently weak about women.