Reclaiming – “Thats so Gay”

by Jennifer Jigour

  Once upon a time in a land called, America, there used to be a very bad word. This word was spoken with detest, and its name was, “Queer.” The word was used to make a certain minority within America feel different, odd, and inferior. These people were also known as, “Gay,” “Lesbian,” “Bisexual,” and “Transgender.” Then one mighty day, some of those very same people who were called, “Queer,” decided to fight back and reclaim the word.



  A few of them bravely acknowledged that sexuality was more complex than previously thought, but they still needed a word to call themselves. They took the word, “Queer,” stripped its negative connotations and took it as their own. This confused many from the LGBT community who had been very hurt but the word, “Queer,” and some to this day still do not understand how people can call themselves such a word. The negative social conditioning of, “Queer,” had been too strong for some people to accept its lighthearted change.



 However, as a new generation grows up in a world where they are encouraged to understand that “Queer” is a good word instead of a bad one, people feel more comfortable using it as an identity and it had become less of a bad word than it used to be. So, why can’t we do that with, “That’s so Gay?”



 In queer sensitivity training I was taught to tell people that if they should ever hear someone say, “Oh, thats so gay” or “He/she is so gay,” to tell them very seriously, “Hey, that is not a very nice thing to say, it offends me, and I’d appreciate it if you stopped saying that because you can hurt other people.” Humm…humm…that’s one way to go about it, but I’d like to challenge that tactic.



If we tell those who say, “Thats so gay,” to stop it because its hurtful and that it is a bad thing to say, are we also subtly reinforcing that something that is, Gay, whether you put the “So” in front of it or not is bad? I’m sure that many from the queer community don’t think it does, but what are the straight people we are telling it to thinking? What are they really taking out of, “Don’t say – that’s so gay.” I think we are seriously missing something.


It’s not that, “Thats so gay,” is a bad phrase, it’s the intent and meaning that’s behind it that is. People use that phrase, like queer used to be used, to suggest that something is different, odd, and inferior. I think it is a complete contradiction. Breakdown the phrase and you’ll find, “Gay,” and what is its origin? Happy! How can something that is different, odd, and inferior also be, “So Happy,” it doesn’t make sense.


Unless the Webster dictionary officially changes the definition of, “gay,” to mean, “bad,” I believe that before we just shoot down the phrase, “Thats so gay,” that we should first enlighten the person who uses it that they are in fact using it incorrectly, and that they should find a better and more appropriate why to describe what they want to say.


In the event that someone calls you, “So gay,” instead of saying, “ouch, that hurts, stop saying that,” instead say, “Oh, why thank you! I do feel so gay and it’s fantastic! You should be so gay too.” And then on occasion when you are on a rollercoaster and your going for the big drop yell out “This is So Freak’n’Gaaaaaaaaaaaaay!” (Translation) “This is  So Freak’n’ Fun.” Let’s say someone defends your very unpopular opinion in class, you go up to them after words and say very sweetly, “That was very gay you, thank you.” (Translation) “That was a very nice of you, thank you.” Like Harry Hay said, back in the day, “Gay is Good.”



I think “Thats so gay” is also good. It should be good  and we can make it that way. We did it with queer, we can do it with, “Thats so gay!”




About jjigour

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One Response to Reclaiming – “Thats so Gay”

  1. ctann says:

    Hooray! What a great idea…

    The use of words in a perjorative sense is so contextual – as I always maintain (and this may be my Australian heritage) – words don’t hurt people, people hurt people. A word is neither inherently good nor bad, it is the context in which it is used that makes it so.

    Now Australians (as you well know) are famous for “testing” people. For example, an Australian might say “thats so gay”, not intended to hurt, but intended to learn about the other person by their reaction to it. And a negative reaction would usually be interpreted as “I think there is something wrong with being gay”.

    So I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion. If someone uses a word in a perjorative sense, that can be interpreted in a positive sense – take the positive interpretation!

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