That's so gay!

By Nancy Updike



Salon Staff
September 19, 2000 11:31PM (UTC)

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"That's So Gay" is so true. My friends, both gay and straight (as it were), have been lamenting the embargo of the term in its grammar-school sense for some time, and have recently thrown caution to the wind to reclaim it. Face it: There is no other word to describe floral Keds, junior high music teachers or "Flashdance." The added bonus of using it as an adult, especially an enlightened urbanite, is the sheer irony and nostalgia. Who, other than Jebediah Purdy [author of "For Common Things"], doesn't love that?

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-- Kera Bolonik

Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but the phrase "That is so gay" never went away. I'm all for people reclaiming slurs as inside terms, but I've never heard it used by any of my gay friends (by contrast, I've heard "fag" and its variations tons of times).

I've only heard "That's so gay" used by straight friends and other ignorant people for whom the phrase is so ubiquitous it's lost its cultural attachment. People simply don't realize they're saying a slur until called on it, such as when someone means to say they've been cheated and they say, reflexively, "I got gypped," a slur against Gypsies. Similarly, the lower-cased word "jew" was once in the Scrabble dictionary, meaning, again, "to cheat." My family angrily scratched it out of our copy. Fortunately, current editions omit the slur.

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Whenever I hear someone refer to something as "gay," meaning "stupid" or any such variation, I usually respond, "Really? What strikes you as particularly homosexual about that?" Sure, I'm a self-righteous asshole about it, but ignorance needs to be rooted out.

-- Cheshire Dave Beckerman

There is one reason and one reason only that that phrase has saturated the vernacular. "South Park"! They say it on "South Park" practically every episode! Considering the huge success of that show and the phrase's popularity coinciding with it, it seems like Updike should consider it as a source of the utterance's resurgence.

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-- Shannon O'Leary

I'll tell you what's so gay: That article is so gay! Am I to make the following presumptions now? It's OK for me to use the insult "That's so GAY," but only if I mean it in a zippily ironic and "fun" way; and ONLY if I live in a big, urban center (where people, of course, are WAY smarter than those in the rest of the country, particularly those in Kentucky); and ONLY if I am gay, have gay friends or have had multiple homosexual experiences. Sheesh. That is so GAY. Actually, it's moronic.

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-- Julie Hamner

Don't get me wrong: I adore David Rakoff's work as a writer. But I'm disappointed to see him display the same old tiresome and typical New York provincialism by suggesting that gay people aren't welcome in Kentucky.

Really David, that's so gay.

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Guess which state, along with two others, passed more pro-gay-rights laws than anywhere else in the country last year? That's right: Kentucky. And even though the U.S. Congress still hasn't gotten it together to pass a hate-crimes law that includes sexual orientation, Kentuckians are already protected by one. In fact numerous organizations, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, invariably hold up the li'l ol' Kentucky Fairness Alliance as a national model of grassroots gay-rights organizing. Meanwhile, you can celebrate all those victories here in Louisville at one of the largest gay bar complexes anywhere south of SoHo.

What's always struck me is how many closet cases flee to the major urban centers -- New York, San Francisco, L.A., Miami -- where they continue to be closety, instead of being happily "out" in the flyover like the rest of us.

-- Martha Barnette

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