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Monday, February 7, 2011

"That's so gay!"

Genesis 19:5 "Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.'"

I’m about to say something politically incorrect. Unpopular. Intolerant. Maybe even inflammatory. That last part depends on your reaction.

I recently saw this commercial with comedian Wanda Sykes discouraging a group of teenage boys from using the expression “That’s so gay” in a derogatory fashion, as a synonym for “lame” or “stupid.”

Here's the worst part: The argument is presented so politely and reasonably. "Please don't say that. It's insulting," explains Wanda in an even, matter-of-fact tone. She's so earnest and well spoken, you almost want to believe she's doing this just to be nice, to educate some poor ignorant teenagers. (Watching this, I was struck with the sad reality that Christians often miss opportunities like this to correct people who misuse the phrase "Oh my god" or "OMG" as an exclamation of surprise rather than a prayer to the Almighty Lord. Why don't churches run public service announcements pointing that out?) Don't be fooled by this respectful veneer. Wanda isn't doing this commercial to be nice. She's doing it to push an agenda and to indoctrinate young minds into believing that homosexuality is something worthy of respect. 

The odd thing is that, had I seen this commercial ten years ago, I would have been on Wanda’s side. Few things annoy me as much as inaccurate vernacular expressions. (Case in point: don't say "I could care less," when you really mean, "I couldn't care less." If you could care less, you're admitting to caring to some degree already. It only makes sense to say you could not care less if you literally do not care at all.) So, I would have agreed that substituting "gay" for "stupid" was inaccurate and therefore bad form, linguistically speaking.

This is a pet peeve of mine because, when it comes to language, I’m a traditionalist. “Gay” used to mean “happy, merry, lively”—and I for one think it ought to stay that way. Why should a perfectly honorable word like “gay” be used and abused in this way? Why should one fringe group of society get to redefine a word that has had a positive connotation for hundreds of years and transform it into a synonym for a deviant sexual lifestyle? (Same thing goes for rainbows, but I’ll save that for a different blog post.) Frankly, I despise (and find it literally sickening) the way homosexuals have hijacked the use of the word “gay” and repeated it to the point that it has all but lost its original meaning. “That’s the evolution of language,” you might argue. Perhaps. But more importantly—and more disturbingly—that’s the evolution of postmodern ethics reaching new moral lows every day.

As I said, ten years ago I would have agreed with Wanda Syke’s argument that “gay” shouldn’t be used as a negative adjective. Call me a purist, a linguistic classicist, but when I sing “Don we now our gay apparel” at Christmastime, I want to picture festive red and green attire, not anything resembling the flamboyant fashions that have come to symbolize—and even, one could argue, caricature—the homosexual lifestyle. So, although we came from different camps, Wanda and I would have shared the same stance that “gay” is not an appropriate, nor an accurate, word choice for an insult.

But alas, today we are living in a world where being “gay” is no longer the closeted secret it once was. Homosexuals and lesbians everywhere are throwing open the doors and proclaiming proudly to the world their addiction to same-sex relationships. (Permit me a brief aside: I use the word “addiction” here purposefully, as I believe homosexual feelings to be a sinful desire, the indulgence of which constitutes a sinful action and eventually a sinful habit that becomes increasingly hard to break. It is no better or worse than addiction to other sins: gossiping about your coworkers or beating your spouse or cheating on your tax return. We would do well to remember that temporarily “good” feelings—what a drug addict would call “highs”— can come from completely evil behaviors.)

So, homosexuality is more culturally acceptable today than ever before, except perhaps in the last decadent days of the Roman empire (notably, shortly before its demise). Americans, especially those under 30, have come to see it as “no big deal” and merely a “personal choice,” akin to vegetarianism or hair length. Where does this leave the controversial expression “That’s so gay”? In a shady grey area.

Based on the current cultural climate—the subtle (but forceful) infusion of “gay” characters into sitcoms and movies everywhere, the constant whispering pressure from all sides to accept homosexuality as a viable option, an equal (and equally healthy) personal alternative to heterosexuality—I now feel I have little choice but to cling to whatever negative connotations may still be attached to homosexuals. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Do I personally like the expression “That’s so gay”? No. I find it a slightly vulgar and superbly lazy figure of speech. It lacks creativity and has the ring of laughable adolescent insults like “You’re so dumb” or “[insert insult-worthy object/person here] sucks!” Do I think it’s a particularly intelligent argument against the rising tide of cultural homosexual acceptance? Of course not. But I do think it’s worth keeping in the lexicon, if only to make people question how one word’s meaning could go from “happy” to “homosexual” to “inferior.”

Will saying “That’s so gay” change people’s minds about whether homosexuality is wrong? Probably not. Will it curb the power of the tolerance police to persecute anyone who dares use politically incorrect language? Doubtful. But it’s better than nothing. And at this point, anything that preserves an inherent negative reaction to homosexuals is, in my opinion, worth using.

If you’ve gotten this far, take a second to identify which group you fall into. Having read this post, do you… 1) agree with me that homosexuality is morally wrong, 2) think I’m an intolerant religious bigot, or 3) think there’s nothing wrong with letting homosexuals do their own thing "as long as they’re not hurting anyone else." 

So, which group are you in? This is a controversial topic to say the least (if not less), and I welcome your reaction to this totally un-PC post.

By the way, did you hear Christina Aguilera screw up during the Super Bowl? Forgetting the words to your country’s national anthem in front of millions of people—that’s so gay! Seriously, if you’re gonna perform in a venue like that, at least take the time to memorize the words to the song.  


  1. I completely agree. You have composed some very fine words to say what I've been thinking for some time. My youngest brother practically coined the phrase. It's exhausting.

    In regards to the the other point. . .
    I'm married to a military serviceman who was terribly offended after that charade (he came to the kitchen to talk about it within seconds). But he's also rivited when people don't display the flag properly, don't put their hand over their heart during the anthem and face the flag, and he was especially aggravated when Lea Michele and Christina Aguliera improvised the pitch and tone to their liking (but don't they all try to make it their own?)

  2. Chriscilla - Thanks for your encouraging words. I'm glad we're on the same page with this issue. And as for the national anthem, it's just one more instance of Americans disrespecting their country. Patriots are a dying breed, it seems. Please pass along my sincere thanks to your husband and tell him I appreciate his service to the USA.