“That’s so gay…”

Photo credit: autostraddle.com
When I was in primary school, there was a strange little activity that me and others in my year found hilarious. It involved walking past someone, then turning around abruptly and shouting in their face: “you dropped the gay card!”. If the male in question looked down as if to check the floor, then he would of course harbour same-sex desires (because that’s how you know someone’s gay, duh!), and that’s what used to give us our kicks.

I was not (and am not) homophobic, and I believe other children who participated in this childish prank also weren’t. However, the point is that it was considered okay to laugh about someone being gay or think about it in a negative way. At this young – and frankly quite vulnerable age – being gay was laughable to me. I never turned around and shouted at a fellow student “HEY, YOU DROPPED THE STRAIGHT CARD! LOLZ!”, because… well… why would I? A male and female in a relationship wasn’t funny… it was normal. The Martha in primary school didn’t need to laugh at that.

Funnily enough, I never even questioned why it was the gay card that was dropped, and not the straight…

But now, I have more questions plaguing my mind, and recently, I’ve been trying to stop myself from saying “that’s so gay” or describing something as being gay. Yes, I’m really embarrassed that sometimes, this ridiculous phrase still slips out of my mouth as if it’s a completely normal thing to say. It’s not. I picked it up around the time I started secondary school, and ever since I adopted it, I’ve never been able to stop myself from using it.

What’s worse is that I never even thought about the implications of what I was saying either. If you’re someone who also (accidentally) uses this phrase, you probably don’t think much of it either, right? But what we don’t realise is that when we’re describing something as “gay” and are saying it with an unaffected tone, we suggest that if something is gay, then it’s somehow undesirable or unwanted. This fosters the view that being gay is therefore undesirable or unwanted, and I for one don’t wish to promote such beliefs. Do you?

I’m fortunate enough to currently be studying a module on lesbian literature, and within just a few weeks, it started to hit home how difficult it was for women to express their sexuality as lesbians and freely talk about their love for other women. Studying how they then – subtly – put these lesbian desires into a poem or a novel as a means to express that love only made me feel sorrow for gays and lesbians who have not felt accepted within society, or felt like their sexuality has become the butt of the joke. And the fact that it’s presented as being secondary to someone who is straight. It’s not fair at all.

Although we may not intend make the term ‘gay’ derogatory, it does happen, and often, it’s not our fault. It’s simply the way that society teaches people to see heterosexual as ‘normal’ and homosexual as ‘abnormal’. The younger me who laughed or nonchalantly referred to something as being ‘gay’ simply didn’t realise what I’d been taught by things around me… but now, I do.

From here on now, I’m going to try very hard to stop using the word ‘gay’ in a way that suggests difference. So should you.

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