That’s Totally Gay

There is a behavior that I am seeing in more and more people and it is becoming quite pervasive in every day conversation.  I would say that it is “sweeping the nation” but that would give this behavior a positive spin that I do not intend to give it. As well, I think it is ridiculous that I should even want to write this article, let alone feel obligated to do so. We are supposedly a modern society that should know better than treat people this way.  Sometimes, it seems like we didn’t learn anything from the civil rights movement.

Search Google for this word. Use the query “define:gay“.  You will see definitions like these:

The term gay was originally used, until well into the mid-20th century, primarily to refer to feelings of being “carefree”, “happy”, or “bright … (

–noun 7. a homosexual person, esp. a male. ( Gay)

If you peruse through the Urban Dictionary though, you will see that this word has taken on another meaning and usage entirely:

The word ‘gay’ is an insult or adjective for something that is unpleasant. (Urban Dictionary: Gay)

Some of the ways people use this word:

“Dude, you’re gay”

“That was gay”


I do not see the difference between using the “N word” and saying “gay” as a synonym for unpleasant.  In my book these two things are exactly the same.  As a grown man you should see and understand that it is NOT any different.  It does not matter if you are someone who is straight, if you are afraid of gay people, if you were “brought up that way”, or if you are just ignorant of the fact that what you do every day actually effects other people.  You still should not use this word in this way.

People blindly emulate each other.  As men, we look up to our fathers, sports figures, and action heroes.  We do this by instinct from birth because otherwise we would not be able to walk or communicate.  When we are babies we have no choice but to emulate our parents or day-care providers.  As grown people, we get the choice.  Unfortunately, so many people do not take it because they are afraid that sticking their necks out by doing something unconventional for their social circle will cause them to be outcast.

It may be true that people who have become accustomed to a certain way of living, or in this case using words in a specific way, will not be welcoming to you when you decide buck the norm and actually start thinking about the words you are using.  Typically, the person who decides to actively go against the grain in a social circle is also the person who is on the outside.  As a man it is important to learn to stand up for what you believe is the right thing to do no matter what and deal with the consequences.  The value to yourself and the world around you is worth the effort.

As a man.  No, screw that, as a caring human being. We should feel obligated to make sure that the words that we use do not offend or put down or classify people in a way that outcasts them. Whenever we use the word gay to describe something other than “happy” or “sexual orientation” we are failing on our responsibility to be respectful of other people and the lives they live.

It is not our jobs or our right to criticize people for their sexual preference, their choice in foods, their favorite colors, religion or other specific orientation in their lives.  At what point were we given the right to make someone feel like less of a person for what they know is right in their hearts?

I am not sitting here typing and ignorantly thinking that just because someone believes that what they are doing is right that it is.  I want to make this very clear.  In our efforts to becoming better men, it is important to identify the things we do that hurt other people and remove them from our lives.

As I admitted before, I am guilty of using the word gay in this way.  It was many years ago, but I did it too.  The way I stopped making this my knee jerk go-to word for everything was to simply stop and think about the things I was saying.  At first, I would notice it afterward but as I became more vigilant about what I was saying, I was able to  catch myself before hand and either say nothing or saying something else.

I have found that my choice of words been varied by the exercise of thinking about what I am saying before I say it.  This has helped me to communicate on a daily basis in a more concise and respectful way, but also I do not have that nagging feeling that I may insult someone’s way of life just by involuntarily opening my big mouth.

I still still slip and use curse words where another more descriptive word would suffice.  The Journey to being a better man means that I vigilantly make it a point to never use words that, just by their usage, would cause someone around me to be offended.

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Article by Matt

Matt is a web developer and entrepreneur who grew up in Kansas City and went to school with Tony since Middle School. After college, Matt moved to Denver with his wife Melissa to start out their lives in a new city. Matt tagged this post with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Read 10 articles by
5 Comments Post a Comment
  1. mbernier says:

    A forum conversation about using the word “gay” in this manner.

  2. Well now that I just made a joke – before I read this, I feel bad.

    However, to me, “that’s gay” has nothing to do with actually being “gay” and everything to do with being nutty, weird and wacky. Gay actually is a word, you know. In fact, the dictionary defines it as:

    having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.
    bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.
    given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season.
    licentious; dissipated; wanton: The baron is a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies.

    These are adjectives – not nouns. If used as a noun, that is when it, in my opinion, becomes perhaps offensive, but I’ve gotta say, I don’t typically use it that way. But I’m older than you are, and the way that you describe it above, as you’ve used it, does seem stereotypical and perhaps insulting.

    I have to also admit that I have TONS of gay friends, and they are not at all offended by being described as “gay” – in fact, they are quite proud of it.

    I guess that for me it comes down to one simple thing: what is in your heart, Matt. If you are good, kind, thoughtful and loving, using that word as either an adjective or a noun is not necessarily bad – especially in the right company. If you are mean-spirited or biased or misintentioned, then it can be horribly mean and something to be avoided.

    Good thoughts, though, thanks for sharing! And welcome back!!


  3. mbernier says:

    I totally agree with what you are saying and definitely am aware of the different definitions/uses for this word.

    I am seeing more and more people use this in the sense of “that sucks” or “I hate that”. Which is not the way that it should be used, whether they intend to direct that toward the gay community or not.

    I think what it comes down to is being able to use words and know what they mean before they come out of your mouth and then being able to defend your usage of the word in the best possible light.

    I am just really sick of people not getting their way and saying “that’s gay”.

  4. Sonya says:

    Another word to keep in mind is using “retarded.” I work with kiddos with disabilities. The term “retarded” used to be a clinical term that referred to a person’s level of functionality. (Technically it is still a medical term, but it is not used very often.) There are so many jokes about “retarded” people and gestures used to refer to people with disabilities. If people actually met and got to know these children and these adults, they would not be as apt to joke about being “retarded.”

  5. gay says:

    As a gay man living in South Africa, I am woried that the casual use of the word gay is reversing the good work that has been done over the past 5 years in changing peoples attitudes to gay people

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