It would seem that, like grunge, the phrase "that's so gay" is
enjoying an unwelcome revival. It's a term used synonymously for
anything stupid, lame, effeminate, flamboyant and hideous. It took
me such a long time to say the words, "I'm gay" that it has
evolved into a phrase with completely new meanings. "That's so
Doing your homework = gay. Wearing different trainers = gay.
Getting a bad haircut, wearing a coat when it's not cold, or
donning a Christmas jumper: Gay! Gay! Gay!
Gay seems to be the hardest-working homonym.
But these things aren't gay, so why not call them what they are:
Diligent, individual, unfortunate, precautionary and festive. I
know we've got to make cuts, but surely we don't need to start with
adjectives. (And PS: using gay for everything: "That's so
Friends have even tried to defend the use of this phrase to the
"PC Police" (aka me). They argue that because they've never used it
to mean homosexual, it's not offensive. "That's so
nonsensical." If you describe me as gay, and in the same
breath assign it to a temporary tattoo of Tweetie Pie, how could
that not rub off on me?
This difference of opinion is what led to the aphorism "one
man's language mutation is another woman's homophobia". (Albeit a
more pervasive and less overt strain. Obviously.) It's
nonetheless irksome that of all the insults and all the words
in all the world, they mutate mine.
When the need arises I could choose another word to describe
myself; queer is a good alternative. The thing is, I've always been
quite partial to "gay". It's small and it's happy. Let's face it,
it's less of a mouthful than "lesbian".
When I was growing up, being called "lesbian" wouldn't win you
any popularity contests. ("That's soooo the understatement of the
century.) At school, negativity clung to the word "lesbian" like
static to our winter tights. It didn't help that the word
itself sounded like an undesirable ailment, something you might get
from sitting for too long on school radiators. Believe me, people,
I've got enough lesbian baggage to travel to Venus, so I know just
how damaging negative connotations can be.
Surely there's another word that could be deployed as an
alternative catch-all insult to give gay a break? Funny you should
ask, because it just so happens that I have a word in mind. It
comes courtesy of Iris Murdoch, and before you say it, I know -
"That's so literary".
Next time you hear someone using the insult "that's so gay",
quietly correct them and say: "No. That's so
I think it could catch on.