“That’s Gay” Is Not OK
Take Responsibility In A Loving Way
The other day I was on a modeling shoot with some high school girls, and I noticed one of them say, “That’s gay,” in a derogatory way. For whatever reason, I did not say anything the first time.
Then it happened again. It was blatant, and it was a table of six or eight people.
I wanted to say something, but I did not want to embarrass her. Of course one voice in my head questioned that desire not to embarrass her—she was being pretty inconsiderate of a massive part of the human population. Plus, which is worse for her in the long run, to be called out in front of a few people who probably will not think much about it or to continue a speech pattern that could be offensive to about ten percept of humanity? Another voice wondered if there was more beneath my initial reticence. I saw my habit of wanting people to feel comfortable and a history of avoiding confrontation.
Nevertheless I determined to say something, and I checked in with myself as quickly as I could in the moment—what do I feel? Am I offended? Do I feel defensive, angry, upset? Do I feel care for my dear friends and family for whom being gay is something beautiful?
The strongest emotion was surprise. So that’s what I shared.
“I noticed you used the word gay in a derogatory way. I’m surprised; I thought homosexuality is more accepted now.”
She immediately apologized and the table bloomed into a discussion about homosexuality in general, in high school, her personal experiences with friends and siblings, and the cultural acceptance of it.
Perhaps I should have been harsher. Perhaps I did not fully share what I was feeling. I am sure with more thought I could have done it better. Still, I was glad I spoke up at all, and pleased with the result.
Speak up for injustice and call out carelessness, but find a way to do it that does not blame another person. Do it in a way that owns your experience, opens discussion, and allows for a graceful apology.