That’s So Gay: Reclamation, Not Admonishment and Abolition
GLSEN continues to annoy the living fuck out of me.
I appreciate the necessary task of training of educators and parents in dealing with homophobia, hate speech and bullying, as well as their efforts in creating alliances and crucial support networks for queer youth. I disagree with some of GLSEN’s more strident tactics.
Don’t Say ‘Gay’
Community and workplace pressures often prevent representation and influential, historic contributions of LGBQTI people in a positive light, thereby depriving positive mentors for queer youth. Control over curriculum must be seriously examined to provide a breadth of topics for students to gain life experience; as well allow teachers a supportive community environment without fear of reprisals or firings.
Intervention for incidents of bullying and follow up support are especially crucial. Teachers, care-givers and parents alike must speak out and intervene against the bullying in schools and elsewhere. Numerous studies, including GLSEN’s, illustrate the negative effects of hate speech and anti-gay stigma faced by queer youth — increased at-risk behaviors, homelessness, depression, suicidal ideation and attempts. Anti-gay stigma has been shown to increase violence against queers.1
Perpetuating The Stigma
The Think Before You Speak campaign website features a word counter depicting the mentions of ‘dyke’, ‘fag’, and ‘so gay’ on Twitter. The campaign’s stated goal for mentions of these words is ‘zero’. GLSEN discourages the use of these terms in ads featuring celebrities and literature. Their site and recent how-to guide, Ready, Set, Respect!, includes tips and tools for teachers to aid students in understanding “this terminology is expressing a bias about groups of people in our society, and that this is unacceptable.” The expressed bias is offensive/unacceptable, not the terminology.
I concede that language evolves, and meanings change. ‘That’s so gay’ has become a slogan tossed around so often and so quickly that the origin for this shift in terminology has failed to be closely scrutinized — the social stigma against those who fall outside of the prescribed roles of gender, sex and sexuality.
Admonishment and censorship lends credence to this nefarious notion that being gay is somehow wrong, immoral, dirty, or shameful. To disparage the use of the phrase is to slap the wrist, and not counter its underlying intent. ‘That’s so gay’ should not be elevated to a derisive jab or slur. To be gay, or even be perceived as gay, is extraordinary, powerful, and absolutely fabulous. To be ‘so gay’ is to be so natural, so lovely, so human.
Don’t Say Anything
GLSEN’s National Day of Silence coincidentally happens to occur days after legislation in Tennessee passes through the Education Committee to be voted on in the TN House, after passing a similar bill in the Senate. This day of silence in many ways mimics another lame, passive and largely ineffectual public relations campaign where participants apply duct tape over their mouths with a logo emblazoned on their cheek.2
Our lesbian-gay-bi-queer-trans-intersex kith and kin are already being silenced; everyday, they are being killed or killing themselves, being beaten or beating themselves up emotionally. The political upheaval here in the states and around the world — countries such as Iran, Iraq, St. Petersburg, most countries of Africa — declare gays/queers should be censored, fined, imprisoned, deported, whipped and/or murdered, sentenced to death by arcane law.3
This day of silence blatantly ignores even the most recent chain of events in our long history of oppression — and stands in direct opposition to National Coming Out Day in October.
I wholly support social and political dissonance, dissent, and direct non-violent action. But I argue a more radical action would be much more effective now than remaining passively silent.
The bigots, bullies, zealots and homophobes will rejoice in your silence. They lose nothing in this moment of silence; it would be as if you aren’t around — they win. They thrive in exerting power over your continued silence.
Be proactive! Break this Silence!
Take a step forward. Tell our stories so that people may understand, and empathize. Share our experiences so that we don’t forget that we are not alone in this struggle. Speak to as many as who will listen.
Great progress has been made in the last few decades in queer rights, and we are seeing some tremendously vocal political and social opposition due to fear, hatred, and a lack of human compassion. Those who oppose equality fear change, uncertainty, and loss of power.
There is no shame in existing. There is no shame in being so gay.
Reclamation, not admonishment or abolition.
UNITE! FIND ALLIES! ACT UP! FIGHT BACK!
SPEAK OUT! SPEAK PROUD! SPEAK LOUD!
Call me faggot. Call me gay. Call me queer. I am.
I will not be bullied. I will be SO GAY. I will not be silent.
SILENCE = DEATH