Friday, October 17, 2008

Campaign against "That's So Gay!"

I saw this at CNN, a new Ad Council campaign to educate people, tweens and teens in particular, about how mean it is to say "That's so gay." The campaign features Hillary Duff. In one commercial, Duff talks to a group of girls, one of whom just said "that's so gay" about clothing she doesn't like, and explains how insulting the comment is, equating being gay with "bad."

A while back I talked to my son, a teen, about his age group using the phrase when I first heard people saying it, and I asked him to not say it. He told me, "Oh, mom. It means the same as that's lame." I told him that it is not only impolite but also ignorant and bigoted to liken being gay to words like lame, stupid, and wrong.

One day I heard teens in the local PJ's coffee house using the phrase, and it had the same connotation in their conversation of another phrase that was popular back in the day, which is "That ain't right!" We usually said it jokingly, but we also usually applied it to what we considered to be abominations. So, with the phrase "that's so gay" we have a saying that tells the world an entire group of people is wrong or deviant every time we utter it.

My adult daughter elaborated how she interprets the phrase when she hears it: "That's tacky. That's grossly flamboyant." She doesn't use the phrase.

Some people don't think using such phrases should be taken seriously, but I think words matter. Most of us discovered long ago that the saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is a lie.

The CNN video talks about how much hearing this phrase hurts gay teens and tweens in school, and how homophobia has led to violence against gay students. The campaign's producers hope to teach teens not to say "that's so gay" ever. Let's hope adults learn the same lesson, and just stop it.

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