Having worked in primary and secondary schools in England and Wales, I’ve had my fair share of lunchtime and breaktime duties. These times are spent supervising pupils on canteens and playgrounds, listening to their conversations and observing the way they interact with one another. One of the most striking things that I have noticed is their use of the expression “that’s gay” when pertaining to something negative. For instance, a child might say “I’ve got English next”, to which another child would reply “oh that’s gay! I have PE next”. Not only do I hear this in school playgrounds, but in adult conversations as well. People use the word ‘gay’ interchangeably with negatively charged words such as “bad”, “terrible”, etc. I couldn’t help but ask why. Is this a reflection of how we as a society see homosexuals?
According to Cox et al. (2010), society still assumes that everyone is heterosexual unless proven otherwise and that sexual minorities are seen as deviant. With gay rights activists and legalization of gay marriages in certain countries, one would hope that homosexuality is lessened substantially nowadays, but expressions such as the one mentioned still shows that people openly display homophobia and/or a negative attitude towards sexual minorities.
I know from researching this very area that we have moved on from total negativity towards sexual minority to accepting and acknowledging their existence. However, whether you are aware of it or not, using the expression in question does not help the move away from the horrible past. So please, stop using it.