My husband and my brother follow each other on Instagram, which I find both amusing and confusing. (My brother started and quickly stopped following me a long time ago.) Anyway, a couple of nights ago Andy sent him a picture of some car that he thought my nephew would like (it had what can only be described as wings (or raised fins) on the back, and it looked cool to me). Rather than responding with a simple ‘Ha!’ (my stock go-to reply to anything that neither impresses nor bothers me much) or a dismissive ‘Not his style’ my brother sends one word as his response: “Gay.”
I know I shouldn’t expect less, and certainly not more, but at this stage of his adult life, and at this formative point in his own children’s lives, to toss the word ‘gay’ around in an apparently derogatory manner is just offensive. When he gets angry, or just casually describes someone be doesn’t like, I’ve heard him use the term ‘faggot’, which he once explained did not mean anything against gay people, it was just a term for something stupid. That excuse no longer flies with me. It never did.
My brother probably won’t ever change. I’ve implored him not to say such things, I’ve screamed and yelled, I’ve spoken calmly and explained that it hurt me personally to hear him use such language, and I’ve told him unequivocally not to talk that way around me, but while it has lessened, it’s still apparently there. Even in the harmless response to a picture of a car he didn’t like.
I’ve long since given up on him. But if his kids should ever say something like that one day, it would break my heart. Kids see and hear everything. Even my non-parenting ass knows that. Words matter. What may be meaningless or insignificant to him might make a world of difference to others. I would hope that message is being passed on to his kids, because if you’re not preparing your children to be open and embracing of difference, you’re setting them up to fail in this diverse future.
As I was sliding down a maudlin hill contemplating all of it, I was reminded by Suzie that I should help do my own bit of education. So let’s turn this into a teachable moment for all those people who say something is ‘gay’ without meaning disrespect to those of us who are in fact gay. Here you go:
And a few more people have something to say: