so gay" has been part of the adolescent lexicon for some time, but a new
University of Michigan study has revealed the phrase could have deep
consequences for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.
Published in the Journal of American College Health, and reported by CBS
Detroit, the study reportedly examined the impact of hearing "that's so
gay" among 114 LGBT students between the ages of 18 and 25.
resulting data found that LGBT students who heard the phrase frequently
were more likely to feel isolated and experience headaches, poor
appetite or eating problems than those who didn't. Still, the study also
revealed another troubling statistic: a mere 14 respondents (13 percent)
hadn't heard "that's so gay" at all throughout the duration of the
the nature of gay-lesbian-bisexual stigma, sexual minority students
could already perceive themselves to be excluded on campus and hearing
'that's so gay' may elevate such perceptions," Michael Woodford, an
assistant professor of social work and co-author of the new study, said
in a statement. "'That's so gay' conveys that there is something wrong
with being gay."
Woodford went on to suggest, "Policies and educational programs are
needed to help students, staff and faculty to understand that such
language can be harmful to gay students. Hopefully, these initiatives
will help to eliminate the phrase from campuses."
2007, the phrase was at the epicenter of a controversial lawsuit, after
a California teen's parents claimed their daughter's First Amendment
rights had been violated after she was disciplined by her high school
for uttering the phrase, which "enjoys widespread currency in youth
culture," to classmates who were allegedly taunting her for her Mormon
upbringing, according to court documents cited by the Associated Press.
What’s So Bad About That’s So Gay
That’s So Gay: Lasting Impact on Youth
Think Before You Say That’s So
That’s So Gay: Not So Funny
That’s So Gay Causes Lasting Harm
That’s So Gay Prompts Lawsuit
Avoiding Offensive Language
"That's so gay! I hate that
phrase so much. Especially when the word "gay" in that context is
synonymous with stupid or dumb. Those who say that phrase
are nothing but ignorant numbskulls with no sense of vocabulary and true
understanding of its actual definition. I know several homosexual people
who are by no means truly stupid and what-not. Though those several are
not completely representative of the entire homosexual population, you
cannot suddenly misuse a word and twist its definition to mean something
entirely different. It is simply wrong and proves what kind of
uneducated idiot you are."
"homosexual" (as a n. or adj.)
(adj.); "gay man" or "lesbian" (n.)
use "lesbian" or "gay man" to describe people attracted to members of
the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word "homosexual,"
it has been adopted by anti-gay extremists to suggest that lesbians and
gay men are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered -
notions discredited by both the American Psychological Association and
the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please avoid using
"homosexual" except in direct quotes. Please also avoid using
"homosexual" as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the
"homosexual relations/relationship," "homosexual couple,"
"homosexual sex," etc.
"relationship" (or "sexual relationship"), "couple"
(or, if necessary, "gay couple"), "sex," etc.
Identifying a same-sex couple as "a homosexual couple," characterizing
their relationship as "a homosexual relationship," or identifying their
intimacy as "homosexual sex" is offensive and should be avoided. These
constructions are frequently used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate
gay and lesbian people, couples and relationships. As a rule, try to
avoid labeling an activity, emotion or relationship "gay" or "lesbian"
unless you would call the same activity, emotion or relationship
"straight" if engaged in by someone of another sexual orientation. In
most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners will be able to discern
people's genders and/or sexual orientations through the names of the
parties involved your depictions of their relationships, and your use of
phrase "sexual preference" is generally used to suggest that being
lesbian or gay is a choice and therefore "curable." The term "sexual
orientation" is the accurate description of an individual's enduring
physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to members of
the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men,
bisexuals and heterosexual men and women.
"gay lifestyle" or "homosexual
"lesbian" or "gay"
is no single lesbian or gay lifestyle. Lesbians and gay men are diverse
in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase "gay lifestyle" is used to
denigrate lesbians and gay men, suggesting that their sexual orientation
is a choice and therefore "curable."
"admitted homosexual" or "avowed
"openly lesbian" or "openly gay"
term used to describe those who are openly lesbian or gay or who have
recently come out of the closet. The words "admitted" or "avowed"
suggest that being a lesbian or gay man is somehow shameful or
inherently secretive. Avoid the use of the word "homosexual" in either
"gay agenda" or "homosexual agenda"
"lesbian and gay civil rights movement" or "lesbian and gay
movement" Lesbians and gay men are as diverse in our political
beliefs as other communities. Our commitment to equal rights is one we
share with civil rights advocates who are not necessarily lesbian or
gay. "Lesbian and gay movement" accurately describes the historical
effort to achieve understanding and equal treatment for gays and
lesbians. Notions of a "homosexual agenda" are rhetorical inventions of
anti-gay extremists seeking to portray as sinister the lesbian and gay
civil rights movement.
or "equal protection"
Anti-gay extremists frequently characterize civil rights and equal
protection of the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
Americans as "special rights" in an attempt to energize opposition to
anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws.
"faggot," "dyke," "homo," "queen," "she-male," "he-she," "it," "tranny"
and similar epithets.
The criteria for using these derogatory terms should be the same as
those applied to hate words for other groups: they should not be used
except in a direct quote which reveals the bias of the person quoted. So
that such words are not given credibility in the media, it is preferred
that reporters say, "The person used a derogatory word for a lesbian,
gay man or transgender person."
"disordered," "dysfunctional," "diseased," "perverted," "destructive"
and similar descriptions
The notion that being gay or lesbian is a psychological disorder was
discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American
Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Today, words such as "deviant,"
"diseased" and "disordered" often are used to portray lesbians and gay
men as less than human, mentally ill, or as a danger to society. Words
such as these should be avoided in stories about the lesbian and gay
community. If they must be used, they should be quoted directly in a way
that reveals the bias of the person being quoted.
Associating gay men,
lesbians, same-sex relationships or homosexuality with pedophilia,
child sexual abuse, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, adultery and incest.
Homosexuality and/or being gay is not synonymous with pedophilia, child
sexual abuse, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, adultery and/or incest.
These associations often are used to suggest that lesbians and gay men
pose a threat to society, to families, and to children in particular.
Such suggestions are defamatory and should be avoided, except in a
direct quote which reveals the bias of the person quoted.
Beyond Political Correctness
"Sticks and stones may break my
bones but words will never hurt me."
“Sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will break our
According to Wikipedia: "Political
correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and
behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in
occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain
other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related
contexts. To be politically incorrect connotes language, ideas, and
behavior unconstrained by a perceived orthodoxy or by concerns about
offending or expressing bias regarding various groups of people."
Choosing the right words is a good start
in acting with civility. It is important to be sensitive to others and
avoid using offensive language or hurtful words. The words we used
have an impact on other people and can cause harm. So, out of a
genuine sense of caring and compassion, and not simply because we want
to be "politically correct," we should seek to understand others and
communicate with respect.
According to research done by counselor
Courtney East, there is a distinction between "political correctness"
and "inclusivity." She says the difference is whether the
motivation is external or internal. Being "politically correct" is
externally driven, behaving in a way that will gain approval from
others. It compromises the value of free speech and can be equated
However, being "inclusive" is internally driven, treating the other
person with sensitivity and respect. It's not just about the
"Golden Rule," in which you do unto others as you would have them do
unto you. It's more about the "Platinum Rule," in which you
actually treat the other person better. Using inclusive language is preferred to
being politically correct. It is more of a mindset and an attitude
that is motivated by a a sincere desire to show respect for others.
Research has shown
countless times that the therapeutic relationship is a key factor in
treatment (Remember Carl Rogers). That means positive,
unconditional regard, and creating an air of acceptance. That
means using respectful and inclusive language all the time and with
everyone. That means (at minimum) getting comfortable with the
right words and the proper language. We have the opportunity to
choose language that promotes self-acceptance in our LGBT clients and
also models respect and fairness for others.
“Language plays a central role in the way human beings behave and think”
Where words hurt,
civility heals. According to the Civility Project, "We
build a stronger and more diverse community by actively sharing our
ideas and opinions with others in thoughtful and considerate ways. By
practicing this basic commitment to civility, we learn and grow from one
another – even in disagreement." They offer these tips:
Slideshow: Respectful &
Gender Neutral Pronouns
Jason Alexander Apologizes for Inappropriate "Gay" Jokes
Video: Words Hurt
Video: Anti-Bullying Awareness
Huffington Post: The Word "Gay"
Brian McNaught: Good Words Bad Words
The Other "F" Word
Drag and Pronouns
LGBT on Wikipedia
Polari: Gay Slang
Gay on Wikipedia
Lesbian on Wikipedia
Educators Can Do
Ten Ways to
Make a Difference
for Gay Rights
Think B4 You Speak
GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network)
launched the Think B4 You Speak campaign in 2008 to raise awareness
of the common use of
derogatory vocabulary among youth towards LGBTQ people and to raise
awareness among straight teens about the prevalence and consequences of
anti-LGBTQ bias and behavior in America's schools.
Think B4 You Speak
Video: Think B4 You
GLSEN: Think B4 You Speak
Hillary Duff: Think
B4 You Speak
Association for Lesbian
Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama