The emergence of the phrase ‘so gay’ irks me. The phrase is derogatory to people in the queer/LGBTTIQQ community by comparing us to something that is ‘bad’, annoying… well you get the idea. I get grumpy when I hear the phrase used. I feel for people questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity maybe hearing the phrase at their schools, playgrounds, universities and workplace.
Therefore I was surprised by the inclusion of the phrase in a recent episode of Shortland Street. GayNZ interviewed the producer who argued that a characters use of the phrase ‘so gay’ is a reflection of change in language and that by not including the phrase would amount to social censorship. Really? While I accept that language changes, does this mean that television programmes need to keep up to date with words that have potential to alienate sections of society? Would we say ‘that’s so Pakeha’ or ‘that’s so heterosexual’? Would ethnic slurs be used? I think not.
There is no reason for the phrase ‘so gay’ to be used and promulgated by the media thereby making it more socially acceptable. Let us remind people what being gay is about and negate the negative use of the word.
Gay is still associated with same-sex attraction, identity and community. Being gay is wonderful, vibrant, strong, and full of love, support, desire, companionship and friendship.
So what can we do at a grassroots level? Let’s affirm queer identities. Let’s support and celebrate our community. And finally have zero tolerance for the phrase ‘so gay’ while remembering that people may not know why the phrase can be offensive. Here are some nice simple phrases that can work wonders and there is even a website!
‘I’m sure you didn’t mean the assignment your working on is attracted to the same gender.’
‘I know a lot of people say that, but I find it offensive. Can you make an effort not to use that phrase?’
So let us celebrate, affirm and let our displeasure at the phrase ‘so gay’ be heard so that people, like the producer of Shortland Street rethink how they deal with language.