The ‘That’s So Gay’ Impact

Now, there are times when saying “That’s so gay” is entirely accurate and appropriate, for example when a gay man is describing hand making curtains with silk fabric and trim.  Or, like when I was watching “Warehouse 14” on Syfy Monday night and Agent Jinks, a gay character on the show, does a double take when seeing the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” in the warehouse. Most of the time, however, this is not the kind of situation that this phrase is most often muttered.

“That’s so gay” has been part of the adolescent lexicon for some time, but a new University of Michigan study has revealed the phrase could have deep consequences for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

Published in the current issue of the Journal of American College Health, the study reportedly examined the impact of hearing “that’s so gay” among 114 LGBT students between the ages of 18 and 25, CBS Detroit is reporting.
The resulting data found that LGBT students who heard the phrase frequently were more likely to feel isolated and experience headaches, poor appetite or eating problems than those who didn’t. Still, the study also revealed another troubling statistic: a mere 14 respondents (13 percent) hadn’t heard “that’s so gay” at all throughout the duration of the survey.
“Given the nature of gay-lesbian-bisexual stigma, sexual minority students could already perceive themselves to be excluded on campus and hearing ‘that’s so gay’ may elevate such perceptions,” Michael Woodford, an assistant professor of social work and co-author of the new study, said in a statement. “‘That’s so gay’ conveys that there is something wrong with being gay.”
Woodford went on to suggest, “Policies and educational programs are needed to help students, staff and faculty to understand that such language can be harmful to gay students. Hopefully, these initiatives will help to eliminate the phrase from campuses.”
In 2007, the phrase was at the epicenter of a controversial lawsuit, after a California teen’s parents claimed their daughter’s First Amendment rights had been violated after she was disciplined by her high school for uttering the phrase, which “enjoys widespread currency in youth culture,” to classmates who were allegedly taunting her for her Mormon upbringing, according to court documents cited by the Associated Press.
Still, retired teacher Rick Ayers, who helped compile and publish the “Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary,” told the AP, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this girl didn’t even know the origin of that term. The kids who get caught saying it will claim it’s been decontextualized, but others will say, `No, you know what that means.’ It’s quite talked about.”

Source:  Huffington Post (Gay Voices), “‘That’s So Gay’ Impact,” by Curtis M. Wong 

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

10 responses to “The ‘That’s So Gay’ Impact

  • Jay M.

    Which is why I never allowed the students who worked for me to use language like that. They all know what it means, and it's hurtful. I don't think a study was particularly necessary, but I'm glad someone is quantifying the effects.Peace <3Jay

  • Uncutplus

    How would you deal with it in your classroom, Joe?

  • JoeBlow

    Jay, a study probably wasn't necessary, but everything gets studied at some point.

  • Jay M.

    The real kicker is that WE pay for that stuff!Jay

  • JoeBlow

    Uncutplus, I usually handle it with my lecture about derogatory language. No derogatory language is allowed in my class, and I prefer that my students only speak positively. They know this and watch their language and what they say around me.

  • P

    WTF happened to 'sticks and stones will break my bones…' I would have been happy with verbal abuse at school because it generally meant I was getting hit.I read about kids committing suicide because of name calling and wonder what kind of wimps we have bred. Get over it.Headaches for a simple bigotted statement ffs! Ridiculous.

  • P

    'wasn't getting hit' Oops!

  • Coop

    Jay M., are you sure that kids know what it means?I don't know if children really think about it or understand it. My memories of the early teen years is a bunch of people who are too insecure to think for themselves. Anything they don't like is "Gay" or "lame" or . . . I was chatting with a retired 6th grade teacher who taught at my middle school. I was on the other team… no pun intended. Anyway, Mr R. referrs to that age group as "brain dead". I agree.

  • Jay M.

    I saw and heard how it was being used…it wasn't innocent most of the time. It was directed at particular people or actions. So I put a stop to it and told them why. No one complained, and at least one kid I knew was gay told me later a lot of them stopped using that sort of "casual put down" away from my office.Jay

Thank you for commenting. I always want to know what you have to say. However, I have a few rules: 1. Always be kind and considerate to others. 2. Do not degrade other people's way of thinking. 3. I have the right to refuse or remove any comment I deem inappropriate. 4. If you comment on a post that was published over 14 days ago, it will not post immediately. Those comments are set for moderation. If it doesn't break the above rules, it will post.

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