When it comes to social faux pas, asking a straight man if he’s gay ranks up there with congratulating an overweight woman on her pregnancy.
I managed this last weekend, asking a young guy that very question. When he said no, I did the whole ”Damn, I’m sorry. I’m so embarrassed” routine. The more tortuous my apology became, the more it dawned on me how far I – but also society – have to go before we accept gays and lesbians as ”normal”, let alone giving them the basic human right of marriage.
I’m not a homophobe – hell, I’ve pashed the odd bloke in my looser moments – and if someone asked me if I were gay, I’d be flattered because I’d take it as meaning I was looking pretty good that night.
But my assumption another man would be offended by the implication of homosexuality (and there are plenty of blokes out there who are), shows me how negatively charged the denotation still is, which is sad and wrong.
This was brought home to me listening to a powerful podcast of LA comedian Todd Glass coming out at the age of 47. Glass had a circle of friends who knew he was homosexual but it was not public knowledge until January and, even then, he struggled to say the words ”I’m gay” on air. Not out of shame, more a complex stew of emotions he has about the word and phrases like ”that’s so gay”, still a common put-down among a huge slice of the population.
”When people use that word ‘gay’ as an adjective … I can tell you what it does to a 12-year-old … it crushes their soul,” says Glass, who decided to come out because he couldn’t listen to any more stories about gay kids killing themselves without thinking his own anxieties were part of the problem.
”If you’ve used that word [gay] without any harm … you didn’t do anything wrong but once someone makes you privy to what it does, if you still wanna use it, that’s the problem,” he says.
Many would disagree with him and argue that homosexuals who take offence to the use of the word in this way are being ”sensitive”, perhaps even insisting that it’s politically correct censorship to not say it.
In fact, it’s just plain decency. And it’s a distinction many families are having to explain to kids because ”so gay” has become a seemingly acceptable part of the vocabulary for many adults and children.
The implication of the phrase is simple – when something is ”gay”, it’s lame, bad, weird or undesirable. Anyone who argues the toss on this simply doesn’t like being corrected. It’s wrong to say it – it shouldn’t even be up for debate – yet so many people want to hang on to ”so gay” as a slice of lazy slang.
Says Glass on the podcast: ”If you use that word and you’re not homophobic, it’s not a big deal [to stop saying it]. It helps.
”It’s a good thing to do.
”If you are homophobic, you better be positive you’re right because it is going to blow that all these kids are killing themselves and … in 20 years … you get to write a book about how wrong you were [but] they’re dead.
”So why don’t you have a soul-searching moment? Go into your house, shut the door and make sure you’re positive that you’re not making kids feel like crap for no good goddamn reason.”
As an Easter message, can I get an amen?
Sam de Brito