I am a writer. I love words. Words have power. Words have the ability to make someone feel amazing. Yet they also have the power to cut someone like a knife.
When I was growing up, it was perfectly acceptable to use the word gay. It was used to describe something you thought was stupid or dumb or ugly. I can’t remember once in my life ever being told not to use that word, that way. That perhaps it could be offensive to someone.
But it was a much simpler time. When we didn’t really believe gay existed. When we thought that being gay was just a choice people made. Just a horrible, horrible choice.
It wasn’t until 1992 when my world was rocked by the death of Robert Reed. Rumors started to circulate that he had died of AIDS. And that he was (gasp) gay. This is when gay became real to me. If Mr. Brady can be gay, anyone can be gay.
Years later in 2010, there was a movie coming out and the trailer was pulled because the word gay was used in an offensive way. I remember hearing the story and thinking what’s the big deal? I’m sure I even rolled my eyes. But once I heard more about the situation, I started to realize it really was a big deal.
And I know a lot of people reading this right now are rolling their eyes.
There have been many words that have become unacceptable over the years. Words that convey hate. Using the word gay as a derogatory term is offensive. It’s a form of bullying. Yet most of the people I hear using the word negatively aren’t homophobic at all. Their intention is not to hurt anyone. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hurting someone.
Using the word gay in a negative way is a slur. Whether people want to admit it or not. And kids pick up on these things. They are hearing a message of intolerance.
I’d rather my kids hear the F word than the G word. Which is a good thing since I know for a fact that they hear the F word very often. And now that the windows are open, the neighbors kids are also hearing it.
I’m not sure if any of my kids are gay. But it breaks my heart to think of them hearing people throwing the word gay around as if it’s a bad thing. I never want my kids to think that whoever they are is wrong. I don’t want my kids to ever question the way they are feeling. I don’t ever want them to feel less than because of the way the people around them choose to speak.
I want my kids to always feel respected. I want my kids to always feel safe. I don’t want them to feel threatened by words others are using.
This isn’t 1987. There is nothing cool about using the word gay. Words mean different things to different people. Think before you speak. You never know who’s listening.