Thursday, June 08, 2006

More gayness!

The discussion about the word "gay" caused by Radio One presenter Chris Moyles' comment about a "gay ringtone", has been picked up more widely and caused some friction between those who see "gay" as a harmless example of language change in action, and those who still see it as a word loaded with negative connotations.

Here's a link to yesterday's Guardian which ran a front page G2 feature on the word "gay", while here's a link to three letters in today's Guardian responding to that article. Underneath, I've cut n pasted some comments from contributors to Urban 75, a Brixton-based discussion site ( I can't link to the actual posts as you have to be a registered user to access the boards). These responses give you some sense of the issues at stake and the range of viewpoints:

EquationGirl: You may think you're not using it as a homophobic statement, but you're linking a word used to describe homosexuals as a slur, a derogatory statement, to mean something bad. In time, the word 'gay' just means something bad.You should stop, you know. I personally find it offensive, whether or not it's meant. It sends out the message that it's ok to use 'gay' to mean something bad, when it isn't.

Xes: Can I just say,that as a gayer,I'm not offended by the term "that's gay" I even use it myself.cos some things,just,are.

Wookie: I went through a lot of pain in order to be able to say 'I am gay' and be proud of it. To hear the word used to mean something shit, lame and defunct is hurtful in the extreme. It has nothing to do with inverting the meaning of 'gay' from 'happy and carefree' to something which is bad. It has everything to do with equating gay people with disfunctionality, and it's utterly unasseptable from people wishing be in the same room as me.Say it if you want by all means. But please stop kidding yourself that you aren't replicating homophobic ideals, because you are. And don't do it within arm's reach of me unless you have a comprehensive dental plan.

JHE: I don't like this use of 'gay' as a term of disparagement, but I suppose my dislike is partly generational. It strikes me as a silly schoolchild's usage.However, it's also an interesting reminder of the limits of attempts to reform language. 'Gay' was deliberately adopted (by the GLF?) to mean homosexual, because the term 'homosexual' sounds very clinical or scientific and all the other terms ('queer', 'poof' etc) were pejorative. It worked to a large extent. It is rare nowadays to find anyone who moans about (what many used to claim was) the misappropriation of the word. Yet the 'positive' word is now also used in a pejorative way - and its meaning, insofar as I understand it, is often similar to 'poofy'.

Your views would be most welcome!

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