That's So Gay

2 min

In today’s Perspective produced as part of Youth Takeover week at KQED, Olive Savoie stands up to confront a bigoted phrase uttered by her peers.

“That's so gay,” joked the boys at the bus stop. It was raining buckets, and, umbrella-less, our hair was matted to our faces. Freezing water dripped from atop my head down my cheeks, but no rain could compete with my blood's temperature, which ran cold.

“Oh sorry,” he stammered trying to redeem himself. “I didn't realize you were here.”

I ducked my head down and tucked my short, stubborn hair behind my ear, a defense mechanism I use to hide. “The boy sees me as gay. That is all. Nothing more. In his mind, I am just gay. Never mind that I am an empathetic human, regardless of my sexuality,” I thought.

The downpour intensified, as my anger did. “What do you mean by that?” I snap at the boy. “And why would you say it, regardless of if you're standing next to a gay person or not?”

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“Hey chill out! It was just a joke!” he digressed. Just a joke? I'm not buying it. “Just a joke” makes a whole audience laugh, not just the straight people. “Just a joke” is objectively funny, not cruel. “Just a joke” is not “that’s so gay.” It can't be!

To use “gay” to describe an action or a look makes zero sense. Why do I so often hear that a haircut is gay, or a person's walk, or dancing? Is a haircut attracted to a haircut of the same sex? Does a person's walk spend hours in the closet, hiding a crucial part of itself from loved ones? Does a dance feel shame? Does it know pride? Saying something or someone is gay as an insult strips the word from its oppressive history and erases the experiences of truly gay people. “That's so gay” is a weaponous phrase meant to demean and generalize. It pushes people back into the closet and is never “just a joke”.

Confrontation is critical when entire groups of people are put down. Next time you hear “that’s so gay “ I invite you to be a change-maker by simply asking, “What do you mean by that?” Chances are, like the boy at the bus stop, the speaker will be shocked by what they learn.

With a Perspective, I’m Olive Savoie.

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Olive Savoie is a senior at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. Her Perspective was produced as part of KQED’s Youth Takeover week.

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