A new ThinkB4YouSpeak school-focused ad campaign is out to stamp out the hurtful practice of referring to things as “gay” in a negative way.
The photo attached to this post is an example of the campaign’s approach, which plays Mad Libs with the phrase “That’s so gay,” substituting “gay” with names of high school cliques to get you to, well, think B4YouSpeak. Examples inlcude “gamer guy,” “jock” and “cheerleader.”
ThinkB4YouSpeak explains on its site:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens experience homophobic remarks and harassment throughout the school day, creating an atmosphere where they feel disrespected, unwanted and unsafe. Homophobic remarks such as “that’s so gay” are the most commonly heard; these slurs are often unintentional and a common part of teens’ vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, but the casual use of this language often carries over into more overt harassment.
This campaign aims to raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce and prevent the use of homophobic language in an effort to create a more positive environment for LGBT teens. The campaign also aims to reach adults, including school personnel and parents; their support of this message is crucial to the success of efforts to change behavior.
The campaign seems fairly “jock” to me, with a better chance of being laughed off by students who will pass it off as pretty damn “cheerleader” rather than making any sort of positive impact. For starters, cheerleading, sports and video games are activities people choose, and the ads’ use of those terms rather than genetic attributes such as ethnicity, hair color or heterosexuality only plays into the backward myth that sexual orientation is a choice.
People use the word “gay” in offhand ways not to disparage people, but as a slightly edgy synonym for “lame.” The derisive “gay” has nothing to do with homosexuality and has evolved as a homonym. That’s not a defense of the practice, which even if benign is still offensive.
While it’s a worthy cause to stamp out the use of “that’s gay,” this campaign is going about it in a decidedly “gamer guy” way.
As part of my exhaustive research for this post, I IMd my sister, Linda, a certified lesbian who is self-proclaimed spokesperson for all gay people.
Me: Does it offend you when people say “That’s gay?”
Linda: Haha, no.
Me: There’s an ad campaign that’s trying to get people to stop saying that.
Linda: Tell them to shut their pie holes.