‘That’s so Gay!’

Mean what you say, say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.

I don’t know who said that quote but I do know it was on one of those rip a day calendars I had when I was younger. I have always loved that, I just wish more people could learn to live by it.

When we use language, it must be understood that sometimes people truly don’t know the harm they are causing and might just need some education.

Gay is defined by the dictionary as meaning happy as well as homosexual relations. The slang of the word however means: lame, stupid, etc. Not only is the word being used incorrectly but it demeans individuals who identify their sexual orientation as being gay.

See what people may say is ‘That’s so Gay!’ but what they’re really saying is that being gay is stupid therefore the word doesn’t fit.

Framed at the Harvey Milk Memorial on Castro St, San Francisco, CA. Photo by: Geena Russo
Because gay isn’t stupid, here is a framed picture of a man who fought for himself and those identified like him. Framed at the Harvey Milk Memorial on Castro St, San Francisco, CA. Photo by: Geena Russo

A lot of times if you ask someone what do you mean by that? If their answer is it’s stupid then ask them why they couldn’t just say that. Also, point out the fact (nicely) that they would sound more intelligent if they said it like this… and give an example.

The same can be said for hearing ‘That’s so retarded’. For example, in reference to not being able to use the bathroom at a restaurant unless you buy something is not retarded.

Again if we define this word, it means slowness or having a limitation in intellectual understanding. Also, this word is no longer recognized in the medical community as being appropriate to call someone with developmental disabilities.

Take the same approach, ask the person if not being able to use the bathroom is stupid. If so ask them why they didn’t just say that. Then educate the person on why that is offensive; how a population of people shouldn’t be offended because you are frustrated with a situation.

An important thing to remember when spreading this message is to come from a calm place. Never argue or be mean to someone, it doesn’t help the situation if they shut off to the information because of how they are receiving it. Also, remember that being socially just is not easy and everyone slips up, no one is perfect, we are all continuous learners, including me.

Let me know what words or phrases bother you below in the comment section!



  1. What a great post Geena! This is such an important topic that not enough people consider. For me, the “That’s so retarded” example is particularly important. My sister worked with the Best Buddies organization throughout high school, and was eventually President, and she did a lot of work with the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. I’ve often found that when I hear people say it, I’ll return it with something like “That really is annoying,” or “Yeah, that is a bummer,” trying to emphasize something else, and it’s amazing once people start to hear that they sound insensitive, they immediately start to change their language. I really think it only takes one person to point it out to you, and then all of the sudden, you point it out to other people, and it gets passed on, and what an effect it can all have. Nice job Geena!


    • Thank you Bess! I am familiar with the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign and have helped with it during my undergrad. I am glad to hear that you and your sister are doing your part to end the word! You brought up a great point that it only takes one person, that is so true. I really believe in the power of one; if you can deeply affect or even just make them think hard about it, the hope is that they become passionate and start the self-education process and then start seeking help elsewhere. Finally finding an outlet or vehicle to spread the message further. Thank you for mentioning that.


  2. I really like this topic. You great post reminds me of Shane Koyczan’s Ted talk “To this day. Violence in our language sometimes hurt us more than physical abuse. Aggressive words and offensive language nowadays are likely to widely used on social media and spoken English.


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