We’ve been there before – you strike up a lovely conversation with a potential pal. It’s going smoothly; until they rebuild the ice by dropping the futile words “that’s gay”.
You try to brush it off – we all make mistakes, but the nagging knowledge that the response isn’t a show of solidarity towards the lesbian couple in the corner remains.
This is the reality in our post-marriage-equality society: an overwhelming proportion of people in Ireland feel no guilt peppering casual homophobia into everyday life, because of course, “they’re not against gays”.
This isn’t an attack on those that have made use of the phrase, but rather on the culture in Ireland that normalises nonsensical grammar.
Is the Spanish teacher piling up homework really gay? What about the video taking a while to buffer? Or worst of all, the lads sharing a platonic hug goodbye?
The word gay is an identity representing homosexuality and a dated descriptor of light-hearted happiness.
Let’s not redefine gay as a derogatory antonym of the latter. Queer activists such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, one of the first LGBTQ+ people to publicly come out in the 19th century, have historically broken down homophobic barriers by claiming words such as ‘gay’ in a positive light, and to associate negative connotations to the identity would be to dishonour them.
But what’s the fuss? Although seemingly harmless, the use of language derogatory to any minority group can have long-lasting effects, damage not limited to the LGBTQ+ community.
A 2018 study conducted by YouGov revealed that 67% of men aged 18-24 in the UK felt compelled to display ‘hyper-masculine’ behaviour, statistics that correlate to the strikingly high rates of male suicide in Ireland.
Gender inequality is seen as a problem of that past to many, but this is a clear sign that we need to shift our perception of male vulnerability. This isn’t helped by the fact that boys opening up about their emotions are labelled as “gay” by their classmates.
In order for us to create a safe space for men and LGBTQ+ people, it is crucial that we break down the stereotype that vulnerability and homosexuality are both weaknesses that go hand in hand with one another.
As Ireland grows more open and accepting towards the LGBTQ+ community, we must reject a world where young people are fed the message that homosexuality is foolish or lesser than.
Labelling actions and inanimate objects as ‘gay’ reinforces these barbaric ideas, while also backing up macho culture pressurising young men to bottle up their emotions.
If you or those around you ever feel the need to drop a casual “that’s gay” in conversation, counter it with a “that’s straight” to highlight just how ridiculous the message sent is!
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