When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, ''Do you have 10 moms?'' she shot back: ''That's so gay.'' Those three words landed the high school freshman in the principal's office and resulted in a lawsuit that raises this question: When do playground insults used all over America cross the line into hate speech that must be stamped out? After Rice got a notation in her file, her parents sued, claiming officials at Maria Carillo High violated their daughter's First Amendment rights.In our office, there is an editor who is a friend of ours who often uses the phrase. Among our social group, we've listened to people explain several times why it's okay acceptable. There was even an article in Details giving it the thumbs up. But you know what? We don't think it's okay. We're not particularly politically correct (maybe our frequent use of phrases like "donkeypunch" and "twatermelon" tipped you off?) and we've never made a fuss about this before. But we think it's worth saying that "That's so gay" really sucks.
In our elementary public school, the special ed kids were integrated into our classrooms for most of the day, and as a result everyone stopped saying, "that's so retarded." We've never said it since. All it took was one friend in college to correct our use of the word "ghetto," for us to drop it.
The fact of the matter is when adults use "That's so gay" to describe something lame or stupid, children hear it and emulate it. Not only does it contribute to unconscious prejudice against gays, but every child who is actually struggling with his sexuality has to go through that much more pain and heartache hearing those derogatory comments all around him.
And, what's more, WE are sick and tired of it, and we're adults. We're not in support of legal battles over words, let's be clear. Say whatever you feel you need to say. But before you open your mouth to snap "That's so gay," think about whether a friend, co-worker or family member in the room is actually gay. Or even not in the room. It doesn't seem ludicrous that common courtesy and respect would make you pick a different phrase.
It should be noted that our big brother Bald Knob has always made a point to correct co-workers and friends when they say "That's so gay," even though he lives a thousand miles away from his gay little bro. And he's always been a little bit of a hero to us for it. Bald Knob has always been a great advocate, ever since he discovered our sexuality by walking in on us naked in bed with one of his best friends in our dad's house when we were 17.
Which, by the way, is proof that there are completely appropriate moments for the phrase.