that’s so gay

growing up, like many gays, i was teased and insulted with many of these words:

Faggot. Pansy. Queer. Sissy.

i’ll be honest: those words—even though intellectually I know they’re just WORDS—still sting. to this day, I loathe them and when I hear them, my face flushes and my head immediately wants to cower downward…

i have 2 teenage sons that live with me whom i have raised (along with grace and for most of their lives, a loving church family) and tried to instill in them the kind of sensitivity that means we make fun of NO ONE—wheelchair, limp, lisp, facial imperfection, effeminate boy, etc.
i guess the key word there is “tried.”

several years ago, while i was still “in the closet,” they and their 2 stepbrothers started using the word “gay” to mean “stupid/ignorant” (or comparable insult, ala “nigger”—altho thank God they’ve at least been sensitive enough to know not to use that word as an insult). of course, i had a really hard time with it and although i had always tried to play straight dad (coaching their teams, doing guy things, etc.), it still stung. they—and their peers—really DID mean it as an insult. simply,

a gay person was the worst they could think of and they purposefully meant it in the worst, meanest sense.

“grace” (who knew of my “struggle”) and i tried to explain to them that we did not want to hear them use that word in that context ever bcz they could never know who they were hurting by saying it. but they never really stopped.

fast-forward a few years—a period of time that also included my coming out and subsequent divorce (altho we’re so blessed to remain very close)—and the word had taken on the context of “that’s so gay“…a similar usage but not quite as mean-spirited as before. basically it seemed to have devolved into “silly” and was often lighthearted. while i never approved using it in this context, i rarely tried to quash its use.

comparatively, my experience with the N-word as an insult has been less prolific (i was raised and still live in a predominantly white area) except for watching my older son and his friends use it as a term of endearment, calling each other “my nigga.” i reminded them of the word’s origin and gently insisted that they had NO RIGHT to use that word. i also reasoned that it didn’t matter if young black men used it and were friendly with each other about it; they were white and its use was plainly offensive. but the context in which these young millennials were using it did seem to parallel the “watered down” use of “gay.”

out almost 3 years now, the #2 and #3 still live with me and (coincidentally?) my African-American partner. although they never use any variation of the N word (except for a few nicknames for friends in their phones and texting each other—including girls, which is just odd), the phrase “that’s so gay” is still used around us. and if i’m being completely honest, my partner and I have both caught ourselves using it in the “not gay but silly” and “gay as in GAY” contexts; our rationale is that WE at least have the right to use it—which I know is indefensible.). yet, despite our circumstances, when the brothers are fighting and are really furious with someone—their #1 insult?  FAGGOT. no matter how much I have tried to instill in them tolerance and sensitivity, the hate still finds its way out.

that dynamic notwithstanding, i am inclined to say that #2 and #3 are very comfortable in our home with their dad and a step-dad and having their friends over to our house. we’re involved in their lives, sporting events, etc. and most of their friends are surprisingly comfortable with us (particularly the morning after sleepovers and they’re consuming the dozens of pancakes I’m churning out) evidenced in part by their unabashed use of “you’re so gay” when they’re rough-housing or ribbing each other. and #1 has shared with me that he feels that the two of us have a better relationship than we ever had, how he has defended his relationship with me to his family, and how he feels perfectly comfortable in our home. i don’t know if this is the norm or not, but I feel very blessed.

to wit, i have to share this very hilarious anecdote involving me and #4 who was 14 at the time of this story.

last summer, he and grace were in town visiting friends. the plan was for her to eventually pick up #3, who was headed home from church camp, and spend time with him while she was in town. #4 was in our neighborhood at a friend’s house attending a neighborhood Labor Day event but didn’t want to be there any longer. so he called me to ask if he could come over to our house and wait for #3 to get into town—which presumably would involve him spending the night. (FYI: he had stayed with us once before the summer before so he’d met my partner, seen the family dynamics, and for the most part, acclimate to my life.)

it just so happened that we had a dozen or so of our gay and lesbian friends out for the weekend. no big deal on our end but i had checked with grace to make sure he wouldn’t be totally uncomfortable; she assured me he would be fine.

so, sure enough, he shows up.  i’m talking to him about his friend and what all they’d been doing and then i asked him why he’d left the party.

his explanation was simple:

“because it was SO GAY.”

and without thinking, i retorted,

so you came here???”

and we both just DIED LAUGHING.

he immediately called grace to tell her what I’d said and come to find out, he’s since told EVERYONE that story with great relish! we still laugh about it.

so maybe “it’s so gay” isn’t such an insult after all. 😉

and maybe gay really is just another word. cuz i don’t seem to wince all that much when i hear it.

6 thoughts on “that’s so gay

  1. I love this.

    Words have the power that we give them. I had a rebellious 6th grader call me a b*tch to my face in front of other 6th graders. And ALL concerned were shocked (and some sort of dismayed, i think) at my reaction. I was humbled and contrite in the face of being called such a name….humbled not at the “name” but at the circumstance that must have certainly drawn that child to the point of calling an authority figure such a name. I felt immediately sorry for her. Goodness.

    My point being…that the name “b*tch” had no power over me personally. It said everything about her and nothing about me.

    I think if we can continue to view those using toxic words with compassion…and work to build their trust and relationship with us…we will all be winners in the end.

    It’s tough stuff. Takes a great deal of…uh…yeah…grace.

    Your post demonstrates your own grace in the face of this sort of dilemma. I’m proud of you!


    • Shout out to the UK! And yes, I’m glad you mentioned my blog over there! And just so you know: I think your blog post is SO gay! And in the best possible way! 🙂 Readers: check this out: I look forward to reading it!

      Grace–you are exactly right. Words have power if we allow them to have power. I’ll admit, it’s not easy to have the kind of compassion required to overlook hate, but in the long run, grace will prevail and provide comfort.

      Thanks for your comment and for the encouragement!

  2. At my first job, I shared a cubicle with a guy named Steve. The guys in the cubicle next to us, Gerry and Brian, would usually join us for lunch. Steve’s favorite saying whenever we were discussing something dumb or silly was “How gay is that?” I was out at the time, so Gerry and Brian eventually got the bright idea to always answer the question by pointing to me as if to say, “oh, about that gay.” It was funny, especially since Steve would keep saying that phrase, despite being flustered and embarrassed every time th guys gave their response.

    And I totally agree with Grace on this one. Words have the power we give to them.

  3. Hey Todd!! *hugs* I luv this blog entry man a lot!! Like I told u I’m still in the closet myself so I’m pretty much livin’ in misery each day I wake but I’m blessed to live to see another day. When I was younger I did act a lil fem but as the teasing got harder and I got older…I hit puderty…I start playn it str8 or as str8 as I can be & still is!! Don’t wry I feel very ashamed yet embarrassed b/c I have all the support in the world from my Tweeps like you but unfornately u guys aren’t stuck here in this awful situation I’m in… Believe me I’ve tried my best to get myself out of here but everytime I do I’m knocked right back to reality that I may never get the chance to leave here out of misery b/c it enjoys my company all to well!! Life is worth living it to the fullest & I feel like I’m just wasting mine…its passin’ me right on by & there’s nothing I can do about it but just let it be.. Some ppl were born 2 be successful & some were just born out of a mistake!! Which one is me is shutter to think?!?! Anyway man I will def keep ur blog on lock. I enjoy readn other OUT gay men stories, struggles, & determinations!! I’m proud to have ppl like u in my life to get to knw & learn 2 grow from. I’m blessed, u’re blessed!! L8r 😉

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