Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hold On

Recommended listening: Hold On by Good Charlotte


As I walk down the hallways it is common to hear a conversation similar to the following:
"Hey man, what's up?"
"Oh, not much, just studying for this gay test Friday."
"Yeah man, bummer."
And, with that, the kids go on there way as if nothing at all has transpired.

To me, this is cause for alarm. People throw around the word
gay, and even more potentially offensive terms, with little to no regard for the repercussions. In today's world, especially that of the youth, the word gay has come to mean lame or stupid.
The transformation of the word gay is on the minds of many and plays an integral role in our daily lives. Other bloggers have noticed the shift in our colloquial use of gay. This
blog explores the origins of the word gay and how the label has developed over time. This blog identifies the same issues I raise, however the blogger claims that there is really no trouble or substantial harm in the evolution of the word gay. I beg to differ.
On Sept. 22,
Tyler Clementi's Facebook status simply read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

According to The New York Times, Clementi committed suicide after footage of him involved in a sexual encounter with another male aired on the Internet. Two of his Rutgers University classmates are currently being charged with invasion of privacy. Similar incidents have been increasing in frequency with six* teen suicides due to homophobic bullying reported in September.
Here, I believe the ramifications of certain attitudes and phobias related to homosexuals are apparent. Although I am by no means insinuating that someone using the word "gay" out of context drove Clementi to suicide, I do believe that the way our culture has shaped the word gay contributes to the rampant surge of homophobia that seems to be sweeping the nation.

So, what's next?

I think the best option is to start within. So many of us are guilty of throwing around the word gay out of context. The consequences of such word choice are legitimate and significant. Once we start monitoring ourselves and those around us we have a chance at changing the way we shape the evolution of the word gay. The bottom line is this: no one should have to deal with their identity being associated with such negative connotations. Being gay shapes the lives of many, but the negative connotations the word "gay" has accumulated are unnecessary in shaping the identity of gay individuals as well as the identity of our society as a whole.

Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.
James Baldwin

*Six Teen Suicides in September:
Billy Lucas: Sept. 9
Cody J. Barker: Sept. 13
Seth Walsh: Sept. 19
Asher Brown: Sept. 23
Raymond Chase: Sept. 29

*movement in response to the increase in frequency of teen suicides: It Gets Better Project

*much of this also applies to the word retarded


  1. Jamie, I'm so glad you wrote this post, and I completely agree with you. I'm sick of hearing people toss around words like gay, retard, bitch, and more, and like you, I think we need to start from within (alternate song title for this post: Man in the Mirror?). I also loved the newspaper article you wrote on this, and I think the topic was perfect for your blog on developing identity. Have you seen Kyle's post on this topic ( If you haven't read it, it might interest you. Your writing, as always, was extremely sophisticated, and I love how you chose to take your beginning poem in a different direction this time that really suited your topic. I also enjoyed the James Baldwin quote. My one criticism is that lame is actually a word we shouldn't be using either: its original meaning related to the physical inability to move a limb or other body part. Should we be putting people with handicaps down in our quest to find "better" words to express things in the perjorative? I think not. But overall, great post.-- Kate H

  2. I completely agree with what you had to say in this post. I thought because this happens so much in high school, it was from a lack of maturity and realization of the world around us. But people say these hurtful words just as much in college! It is so upsetting how many good people use these words simply because it is the social norm. If we just take a few more minutes to focus on what we are saying, we could be saving so many people from such hurtful words. I am especially disappointed that after all of the recent deaths homosexual teens, this trend has not even begun to change. Yes, we can all wear purple to remember their lives and the great spirit they had, but are we really celebrating their lives if we continue to use the words that inevitably caused them to end their lives?

  3. I feel the root of the problem lies in understanding. Many people don't understand what it feels like to be stereotyped and called names with negative connotations. If people weren't so self-centered and actually listened to others while attempting to truly understand them, we wouldn't have as much of a problem with stereotypes and generalizations. It's all very frustrating, but what's even more frustrating is that there really isn't much that can be done about it. Sure we can do our best to point out when people say gay or homo in the wrong context and advocate Gay Rights, but people need to genuinely care for there to be change, and people can't be forced to care. I wish I could be open about my marijuana use without having people think that I'll go nowhere in life or that I'm a worthless drug addict with nothing useful to contribute to this world, but they just don't understand.

  4. I'm really happy to hear you talk about this. To throw words like gay, retard, etc around is really hurtful. I have always believed it comes from the fact society never wants to accept that what is differnt from them and so people grow up and are never taught using words like that is wrong. I agree, while the misuse of the word didn't drive him to suicide, it was one of many things that provoked him to think about it. The world should be more accepting and its a shame these 6 kids will never know that they were alright just the way they were.

  5. I definitely agree with you that "gay" and "retard" should not be used so incorrectly and offensively. Ms. Nelson did say today that, outside of high school, the word gay is not so commonly used to mean "stupid," or whatever else it is used for. But I think the problem with gay being used so frequently in high school is that high school is precisely the place where teenagers generally discover, reveal, and/or must deal with their sexuality. So, for the word gay to be used so negatively in high school is essentially the worst place it should be used, because it is such a sensitive topic at this age. Of course, homophobia is not at all unique to our age group, but the prevalence of the word gay adds to this homophobia in high school, whether the speaker of the word means to or not, and further alienates a homosexual teenager in an already difficult time in their life. I think that's why so many of the suicides were committed by students not much older than we are. Thanks for the post, as always!