"That's So Gay" Is Not Okay

Casual expressions that are an ingrained part of the common vocabulary can constitute harassment

Words will never hurt you...but if you're an LGBT teen, remarks heard in the hall, sometimes from teachers, sting a little. We're not talking "queer" shouted two inches from a student's nose, but more casual expressions that are such an ingrained part of the common vocabulary the ones saying them don't always realize they constitute harassment.

"The students and I have to talk about the issue of language a lot, whether it's the phrase 'That's so gay,' which still comes up a lot, or whether it's jocks in the hallway calling each other fags," says Fulton librarian and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) sponsor Karyn Brinks. "And the idea is, we can never let that go. It's never okay. I've equated it with the n-word. People have the right not to be offended in that way."

Kevin Thomas, Central High's GSA faculty advisor, says that school's "family" can also be insensitive. "Some of the faculty, the students, it's very subtle when they say, 'You're so gay.' A lot of them have never picked up that it's hurtful. It's like saying, 'Jew 'em down!' Just unacceptable."

Some gibes are fully intentional, says Colton McLain, a homosexual who's a junior at Central. "I've heard a teacher I know doesn't like gays making the comment 'It looks like you're one of those kids goin' to GSA!' to taunt a student who is running through the halls. I think she sounds kind of stupid."