Gay is not a noun, and other bugbears

It’s not easy being a grumpy lefty fag. I have to be alert all the time for people lapsing from the ways of political correctness and vigilant with my proselytizing. It’s almost a full time job; one that leaves me barely enough free time for clubbing (something, I imagine, for which the baby seals are tremendously grateful).

So, in an attempt to save more of my time, and yours, and since I’ve been annoyed twice in twelve hours by thoughtless stupid comments, the like of which belong back in the 1970s along with Mr Humphries, rather than in the 21st century, here are a few handy tips to help us all get along.

Gay is not a noun

I’m well aware that some people will think this nitpicking, but language does matter. To quote an example from a long long time ago, in a newsgroup far far away, “Bar the doors Martha, the Gays are coming!” is just a horrid way to use the word.

We are not “gays”, we are gay men, gay women, gay people. Notwithstanding Little Britain, being gay is not the sole defining aspect of our lives. Gay people aren’t the only minority that is referred to this way, and there are plenty of other groups that are turned into nouns in ways even more distasteful – the way some people refer to “ethnics” or “illegals,” for instance, is repulsive.

Stop and think why this is so annoying. It’s because it’s dehumanising; controlling language is something that has often been a feature of attacks upon groups of people; a common first step in victimising is to make them “other.” Take away the fact that they’re a person, as much as you can, and it’s a lot easier to cast aspersions, to scapegoat and to smear.

They’re not people, like you and me, they’re “illegals” or “muslims” or “blacks” or “the Jew.” It might seem a small thing, but I really do think this is an area where language is important, and it does matter. Refer to people as people, not as some amorphous “other” and I think you’re keeping the door open to realising that, actually, we’re not all that different.

Gay is a synonym

But only for “festive” or “joyous.” I try to be as festive as the next man (and sometimes with the next man, if he’s amenable), but it really does annoy me when people use the word “gay” as a synonym for rubbish, weak, and similar terms. Like the PR person who tweeted last night “Wish I wasn’t so gay and had stayed out.” I’ll spare their blushes, for now.

Is it really so difficult, even on Twitter, to find another word, like “lightweight” or “lazy” or “feeble”, rather than using “gay” to mean those things? And is it really so difficult for people to comprehend that some of the people reading what you say might actually be gay, and might consider that using the word like that is pretty offensive (not least because I can drink a lot of people under the table)?

To their credit, the PR responsible has deleted the tweet, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed. And I have a long memory.

Again, some think this is trivial; I think it matters – and it matters because a lot of people do get teased, and bullied; the suicides of six gay teenagers in a short space of time over in the US ought to remind us of that.

Being a teenager can be hard enough for anyone; when you realise your feelings aren’t the same as everyone else, it can be hell. And that’s not going to be made any easier by people deciding that “gay” is a handy shorthand for everything bad.

The Gay Agenda

I was originally just going to ignore the silly PR tweet from last night; and then I wandered into the Digital Spy forums, where someone thoughtfully asked whether or not there’s a gay agenda in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Yes, really.

They’re written by Russell T Davies, and he’s gay, so there must be one. Obviously. Just like there was in Doctor Who when he wrote that.

Obviously, we’ve been unmasked, so it’s time confess the truth.

Of course we have an agenda. We want to recruit your children, destroy your marriages, and introduce in schools compulsory teaching of the arm movements to every Bananarama song.

Seriously, what is it with some people? The mere mention that gay people exist, and we must have an agenda. Someone in the office once asked me what I did at the weekend, and I told them I’d gone out to the cinema with my then boyfriend.

That, it seems, was too much information. Always going on about being gay.

Ramming. It. Down. Their. Throat.

Ahem. Suspect Freudian metaphors aside, why is it ok for straight people to mention their partners, but not gay ones? Why must there be an ‘agenda’ if a TV programme has a gay character, in amongst the incredible multitude of straight ones?

Frankly, I suspect that this is really a way of people saying that they simply don’t like us being around; as long as we’re quiet and don’t actually mention we’re gay, that’s fine (because then you can pretend). But we do exist. We’re not going to go away, and we have just as much of a right to hold hands in the street, or on TV, as you do.

Often, it seems, the people who complain about this with their “Unnecessary! Children might be watching!” moans seem to hold two contradictory views at the same time.

The first is that what gay people do (why they spend so much time thinking about the mechanics is beyond me) is so horrible and disgusting that no right thinking person could ever countenance doing it.

But, at the same time, the “gay lifestyle” is so incredibly alluring and enticing, that the merest mention of it in even slightly favourable terms will have teenage boys banging away at each other’s arses like steam hammers.

I’ve never quite worked that one out, and I’m not sure I ever will.

If there really is a gay agenda, it’s surely this:

Don’t use us as shorthand for “rubbish.” Don’t bully and belittle. Don’t obsess about what we do in bed; we don’t care what you get up to.

Treat us – and other minorities – as equals.

And remember recognising differences isn’t “special rights.” It’s the only sort of equality that actually makes any sense.

3 Replies to “Gay is not a noun, and other bugbears”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.