Who still uses “gay” to describe someone? I thought this was 2013, when same-sex marriage was on the upswing, rights for people of all beliefs, creeds, colours, and sex were on the books and that our thinking was slowly turning to thinking before we speak. I guess not. I’m not sure where the blame lies – social networking is an easy and almost anonymous way to throw things out there that you can’t take back.
Dr. Jerry Buss died Monday, a fact that really upset my husband. He remembers the “showtime” that Buss brought, and adored and worshiped the players that ended up on the Lakers because of him. It was during a formative time for him, so it’s fraught with memories and emotions of growing up and growing older. He mentioned on Facebook that he was very emotionally upset at Buss’ passing – more telling about getting older and wishing for times past than anything. Either way, he put his emotions out there, and what did he get?
Someone telling him, “That’s pretty gay of you.”
I was horrified. Primarily because this person knew him for a long time and I thought would be a little more sympathetic, but mostly, mostly… because they threw around the “gay” term. Both hubby and myself are well into our 40s, so that means this person is close to 50, if not already there. 50 years old and still saying “gay” as a slur, an epithet, a derogatory remark. You might as well say, “That’s so left-handed of you.” Or, “That’s so blue eyes of you.” That’s how much sense it makes. Of course there is some truth to stereotypes – that’s how they got to be stereotypes – but saying something to denigrate not only the person you are talking to, but a whole section of the population, just because you’re some robot that doesn’t deal with feelings very well? Not acceptable, in any way, shape, or form. I’m calling you on it.
When I was in college, I remember a moment that taught me a big lesson. The boyfriend of one of my dorm-mates and I were verbally sparring, having a bit of an argument, and he said, “Stop being such a bitch!” To which I quickly, and thoughtlessly retorted, “Well then, stop being such a fag!” At the time, I had no idea how bad that word was when used in that way, and how hurtful it was. I was a little more naïve than the kids who had been away at school for three years already – this was my first year away from home and one of my first encounters with a gay person. I apologized, but my and this person’s relationship was never quite the same. Or with his boyfriend either.
As I’ve gotten older, experience and time are great teachers. I know why we don’t say these words now. Human beings have so many names and slurs for each other, so many ways to pick at the things that make us different. It’s a constant barrage of material from each other, taught from fear at a young age by parents or another authority figure, and mostly based in nothing substantial. It’s also flashed at us from marketing and lobbyists and mentors and big brothers and teachers – their opinions, their jobs, trying to get us to buy in to what they want us to buy in to. Things we cannot control and/or have no control over – straight hair, curly hair, blue eyes, white skin, dark skin, white teeth, height, sex, orientation…anything that makes us different from one another. And then we spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone who is just like us, who likes the same things we do. We cut ourselves off from humanity by highlighting our differences and then are lonely, disappointed and frustrated when we can’t accept others for who they are.
We’re all humans, bottom line. Let’s try to look at our similarities instead of the differences. As humans, we all deserve love. Whether your love looks like the way my love does, it’s immaterial. I profoundly respect your right to love whoever you want, however you want. How does your love taint or threaten me? It doesn’t. Believe me, I know how hard it is to find someone to be with. I didn’t find my partner till I was almost 40. That’s a long, lonely time. But it was worth it.
Here’s the point. It’s not OK to use “gay” as a slur, or derogatory remark. And when I call you on it, don’t tell me to lighten up or that you just meant it in a funny way, chill out. Own it, own up to it, and maybe change your thinking. Bullies will throw it back at you that you’re taking it too seriously, or are outraged for no reason. They try and make you think you’re the one that’s wrong. You’re not. I will stand with you if you need backup on this.